The right to disconnect


The right to disconnect from work is an issue that was included in the legislation of several EU countries even before the pandemic of COVID-19. The general definition given by the European Union states that the right to disconnect refers to the right of the worker to be able to disconnect from work and abstain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as e-mails and other messages, during non-working hours and public holidays.

In this definition, there are countries that only establish the right to disconnect for teleworkers, such as Slovakia, Greece and Italy; and on the other hand, countries that establish this right for all workers, regardless of whether they are teleworkers or workers using ICTs, such as Belgium, Spain, France, Luxembourg and Portugal.

For Spain, the right to disconnection is covered by collective bargaining provisions or agreements between employers and representatives of workers and must be aimed at improving the reconciliation of work and family life. This is established in article 18 of Law 10/2021, of 9 July, on remote work, which determines that people who work remotely, particularly in telework, have the right to digital disconnection outside their working hours under the terms established in article 88 of Organic Law 3/2018, of 5 December.

The employer's duty to ensure disconnection implies a limitation on the use of technological resources for business communication and work during rest periods, as well as respect for the maximum duration of the working day and any limits and precautions regarding the working day established in the applicable legal or conventional regulations.

Organisation of telework time and the right to disconnection

The relationship between teleworking time and the right to disconnection has been the subject of numerous studies under various headings.

As far as teleworking time is concerned, the new Luxembourg Convention foresees specific working time provisions to give more flexibility to teleworkers and to require the employer to ensure that overtime is exceptional.

In some countries, sectoral agreements (as in Germany and Lithuania) or company collective agreements (as in France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain) play a role in determining working time patterns in teleworking arrangements. Collective agreements regulating working time patterns range from granting greater time flexibility to employees to maintaining common legislative rules on working time for teleworkers.

On the other hand, other States such as the Nordic countries regulate working time but not from the teleworker's perspective, with no specific working time provisions. Similarly, there are no specific provisions for teleworkers in relation to working time patterns in Cyprus or Ireland.