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Ireland's right to disconnect

Ireland's right to disconnect

International Employment Lawyer - 12 April

“As a branding exercise, repackaging existing entitlements with a code of practice that is not directly enforceable, and presenting it as a new, shiny ‘right to disconnect’ is masterful,” adds Niall Pelly, head of GQ|Littler’s Dublin office. “However, in terms of legal substance, the code is little more than an opportune reminder to employers and employees to be mindful and respectful of the working time rights of their employees and colleagues.”

Issues are also foreseen in the definition of “normal working hours”, as Pelly explains. “The code refers throughout to an employee’s ‘normal working hours’, and it is against these ‘normal’ hours that the right to disconnect is pegged. The code presupposes that all employees have normal working hours, but it is far from clear what is meant by this, particularly in circumstances where employees are increasingly looking for more flexible arrangements outside the traditional working-day model.”

“Teams of lawyers would no doubt have locked horns over what precisely ‘normal working hours’ means in any given situation. However, to have gone down that route would have been a mistake, and it is better that a more flexible balance has been struck – a balance that is based on principles of mutual respect, which allows for flagrant breaches to be punished in the context of claims, such as constructive dismissal, but one in which liability is not triggered by the sort of interactions that are entirely routine in the modern workplace.”

“The fact the code has been welcomed by both trade unions and Irish Business and Employers Confederation suggests that it strikes a decent balance,” says Pelly. “It will at least serve to start a conversation about the issue in workplaces, particularly in circumstances where employee burnout is becoming an ever more prevalent issue.”

Read the full article here.