Nearest of regulate the right to disconnect and telework in the EU
The regulation of the right to disconnect and telework (home office) in the UE is nearest. Commissioner Schmit’s opening remarks at the Conference on the Right to Disconnect and Telework (yesterday, 15 March 2022)
According to the Commissioner speech:
The European Parliament has put these topics high on the agenda. Your resolution of 21 January 2021 on telework and the right to disconnect points to very important challenges in this area, and it also provides input for possible solutions.
Telework and other hybrid forms of work are here to stay. Eurofound estimates that about 37% of jobs are tele-workable.
We all witnessed the shift in response to the lockdowns across Europe: In 2019, only 5% of Europeans were teleworking. In April 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the number jumped to almost 40% (37%).
However, the infrastructure and support services needed to effectively work from home were not always readily available, such as the right skills and training, viable digital infrastructure and tools, the adequate level of health and safety at work, sufficient availability of care and health services.
Remote work and telework raise questions on the way in which existing legal frameworks can be interpreted, applied and enforced to continue to be fit for the digital age.
The issue of algorithms, that we have addressed in our proposal on platforms, also merits full attention, as algorithms are now more and more present in the world of work as an instrument to manage and to control human resources.
Telework can help to better reconcile work and family responsibilities but we need certain safeguards to avoid that the new way of working marginalises and excludes people, in particular women, who often shoulder additional care obligations.
The debates on the “right to disconnect” and on “telework” are somehow intertwined. However, the issues raised by the “right to disconnect” are not unique to telework.
The right to disconnect is rather linked to the widespread use of Information and Communication Technologies and digital tools in the workplace. Therefore, it concerns a larger number of workers.
The discussion on the right to disconnect is a complex one, cutting across many policy areas.
We need to have clear rules and safeguards in place, knowing that evidence advises against a one-size-fits-all approach.
Companies are very different and this has to be taken fully into account.
Several Member States have already put in place legislation on the right to disconnect. There is no reason why, in some countries, this right exists and in other Member States of the European Union, this right is denied. Therefore, it is important, at the European level, to establish this right.
It is also obvious that social partners have to play a central role in this debate and in the establishment of this right.
Agreements on telework and digitalisation in EU
They surely should continue to engage and build on the framework agreements on Telework and Digitalisation.
They should work to find commonly agreed solutions notably through social dialogue and collective agreements.
In response to Parliament’s resolution on the right to disconnect and telework, the Commission committed to follow up with a legislative act in full respect of proportionality, subsidiarity and better law making. It is important to recall that any initiative in this field is subject to a two-phase consultation of social partners who may decide to act by means of agreements.
In the meantime, the Commission is conducting broad research on the trends, evolution and implications of telework and the right to disconnect. I thank very much Eurofound who are very much engaged in these studies and in this work. The Commission has launched a large-scale study to support evidence-based possible legislative and policy measures.
Today’s conference is an important milestone to move forward this debate, gather evidence and contributions, and exchange good practices at EU level.
Our common objective is to ensure that the digitalisation of the economy and the world of work goes hand in hand with adequate working conditions and social rights.