A new Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect (Code) has been introduced giving workers the right to disconnect from the workplace.

The Code was prepared by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and provides practical guidance for employers and employees to ensure compliance with employment legislation on the right to disconnect from the workplace. Failure to follow the Code is not an offence in itself, however, the Code is admissible in evidence and will be taken into account in any proceedings before a Court, Labour Court or WRC.

Key elements of the Code

The right to disconnect is grounded on three elements:

  1. The right of the employee not to routinely perform work outside normal working hours.
  2. The right not to be penalised for refusing to attend working matters outside of normal working hours.
  3. The duty to respect a person's right to disconnect.

Balance

A joint implementation approach with respect to the Code is recommended by the WRC. Employers are expected to manage working times whilst employees have an individual responsibility to be mindful of both their own and their colleague's right to disconnect. To achieve this balance, employers must notify employees in writing as to their normal working hours and rest periods, monitor work patterns and take remedial action as necessary. Where an employee believes their right to disconnect is not respected and/or their workload is such that they are unable to disconnect at the end of their normal working day, they should try to resolve this informally if possible. If this is not possible or not successful, then employers must investigate in accordance with their grievance procedures.

Policy

The Code also recommends that employers put in place a policy on the right to disconnect, subject to the needs of the business and its workforce. The policy should take account of health and safety legislation, employee terms and conditions relative to working time, as well as the various statutory obligations on both employers and employees. To implement this, employers are encouraged to consider the template policy included within the Code and to tailor the template to suit the individual needs of the workplace.

The Code is the first of an anticipated two -part plan to create a more flexible family-friendly working economy. The Code is expected to be supported by further practical guidance on the right of employees to request remote working. It is understood that the subsequent plan remains at consultation stage.

The Code can be viewed here.