Sinn Féin TD for Kildare South, Patricia Ryan, has welcomed the introduction of a bill to protect workers’ right to switch off.
Speaking in the Dáil, she said that “last week, my colleague, the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers’ Rights, Deputy Louise O’Reilly, introduced a bill to give workers a legal right to disconnect from work outside their working hours. Covid-19 has highlighted the huge change in work practices that has been gradually inching its way towards home working for those who can do it.
“The number of people working from home regularly has more than trebled as a result of the pandemic. It may be one of the few positives from this pandemic that some of the thousands of employees who left Kildare and Laois for work every morning will no longer have to make that journey when all this comes to an end. That will have a major benefit on their work-life balance and on our planet. However, these developments, if left unregulated, can sometimes end up being damaging and stress inducing and may make jobs more difficult.”
Deputy Ryan added that “countless workers have spoken of how they are exhausted and stressed in their job due to their employers contacting them late at night and requesting a task be completed for an online meeting the next morning. Many have reported an always-on culture where workers are expected to be contactable and available to respond to work emails, calls and messages at every hour of the day, seven days a week.
“Reading emails and messages outside of our normal working day can make it difficult to let go of work-related stress, especially for those home workers who do not have the luxury of a separate work space as it can influence their mental health, affect their mood and sleep patterns and intrude on family time.
“There has been a strong campaign among trade unions to deliver a right to disconnect for workers. I commend the work of the unions on highlighting that. Employers need to put in place a right to disconnect policy to establish the hours when employees are not supposed to send or answer work-related emails, texts or calls. We need to protect our workers and their mental health. They deserve nothing less.”