Six in 10 UK workers would support a ‘right to disconnect’ law, according to research from Ipsos.
Driven by remote working and the pandemic, more than two-thirds (67%) of employees say they now receive work-related communications outside of working hours. Although 43% check these communications, only 40% reply to them.
The research shows that being “always-on” has become normalised for younger workers. Fifty-five percent of 16 to 34-year-olds thought it was acceptable for employers to expect staff to check work communications out of hours, compared with 35% of 35 to 75-year-olds.
Younger workers were less in support of a law being introduced, although graduates were more in favour than non-graduates.
Higher-earning workers were more likely to be checking or sending emails outside of work hours, Ipsos found. Four-fifths of people earning more than £55,000 a year tended to check communications outside work time, compared with 65% of those earning less.
Right to disconnect
Unions have campaigned for a right to disconnect for UK workers for some time. A poll by the Prospect union in 2021 also found that 66% of those working remotely would support such a policy.
The TUC’s Dignity at Work and the AI Revolution manifesto, which considers the impact of algorithms and technologies on employees, also calls for a “statutory right for employees and workers to disconnect from work, to create ‘communication-free’ time in their lives.”
A right for employees to disconnect has been in place in France since 2017, and Portugal since last year.
The Scottish government has also indicated it could establish the right for government employees working in devolved agencies, after a pledge in its budget in December.
When asked whether they would prioritise the right to flexible working over a right to disconnect, almost a third (32%) said it was more important to give employees the right to switch off. Thirty-seven percent said both factors were equally important.
Kelly Beaver, UK and Ireland chief executive of Ipsos, said the pandemic had had a huge impact on working patterns, but not always a positive one.
“For many, this has resulted in increased flexibility, but there is also the blurring of lines between work and homelife.
“There is clearly support for legislation that protects the work-life balance, but will something as prescriptive as legislation actually impinge on the flexibility many have embraced over the last two years?
“Businesses should work with their employees to provide an environment that offers flexibility and a healthy work-life balance, so that we can all benefit from this new way of working.”