Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.30 1 Apr 2021


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A solicitor has said the new right to disconnect code of practice will actually take rights away from workers.

It comes as people now have the right to disconnect from work and not answer calls or e-mails outside of working hours.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar signed the new code of practice, which means employees 'officially' have a right to a better work-life balance.

The new rules could lead to cases in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) when there are breaches of the right to disconnect.

It means people have a right to not have to work outside of normal hours, they cannot be penalised for refusing to do so and colleagues should not routinely e-mail or call outside of those times.

But solicitor Richard Grogan told Lunchtime Live while the intentions are good, the code is actually unclear.

"[The right to switch off] is a good thing, but certainly this new code is not a good thing.

"This new code seems to dilute the right to disconnect, not to actually give people rights."

He explained that new wording has made the issue more grey.

"Section 5 of the Working Time Act says that an employee can only be contacted outside of their standard hours in an emergency situation.

"And what have they put in? 'Occasional or legitimate situations or for business or operational reasons'.

"So what they've tried to do here on this is actually dilute the EU directive and the Working Time Act.

"The EU directive is very clear on this: you just can't do it".

'Very, very serious'

He added that there are also changes to break periods for workers.

"The second thing they've done is they've said that the employee, if they don't get a break at the right time, that they must report that in writing to the employer.

"Again this is contrary to 2001 regulations that they brought in, which says that that only applies where the employer has actual working time records that they keep - and they make sure that's completed on a daily basis - and advise the employee of all their break periods.

"So what they've tried to do on this is actually dilute the rights - which is very, very serious".

He said this follows on from two rulings: a 2018 Dutch case which found that employers must be able to show working hours on a daily basis, and a 2004 decision against Britain which said that employers must show that such rights have been complied with.

'Real problem' with remote working

On wider regulations for people permanently working from home, Mr Grogan said employers are obligated to pay.

"Remote working will be very good for a number of people, and it's a good idea.

"The issue in relation to remote working... is that there's no support for businesses to help you do remote working.

"If you're doing remote working, somebody has to get you a proper chair, proper table, proper workstation - you have to have all of that if you're working remotely.

"The cost of setting up somebody at home is around €2,500".

But he said there is an issue for those who adapt a hybrid model of both office and home working.

"When you have people who are going to be flexible - a couple of days in the office, a couple of days out - that's going to be the problem.

"But the real problem is to set somebody up at home, the cost is €2,500 - roughly - but the employers can only write-off 15% of that this year.

"It's a seven year write-off, so they have to pay out this huge amount of money to set everybody up but they can't actually get the cost of that back year one."

And he said there are remote working concerns over GDPR, as well as working conditions.

"If an employer lets you work at an incorrect work station and you suffer a back injury, for example, the employer's going to get sued.

"There's companies that are doing these reviews - it can be done remotely - to see does your work station comply, and very few of them are actually complying.

"About 30% are failing".

Main image by Firmbee from Pixabay 

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EU Directive Lunchtime Live Remote Working Richard Grogan Right To Disconnect Workers Rights Working Time Act

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