Call for legal right to disconnect

A survey by the union Prospect backs calls for a right to disconnect for remote workers.

woman stressed at desk


Two thirds of home workers in the UK want to see a new ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy in the forthcoming Employment Bill, according to the Prospect union.

A poll for the union found that 66% of those currently working remotely would support the policy, which would require companies to negotiate with their staff and agree rules on when people could not be contacted for work purposes.

Prospect found that support for the policy was strong across all age groups and with voters from all political parties, with 53% of Conservative voting workers supporting the idea compared to just 22% opposed. Overall 59% of workers support the idea, with 17% opposed.

The poll also found that:

  • 35% of remote workers say their work-related mental health has got worse during the pandemic, with 42% saying this is at least partly a result of inability to switch off from work
  • In total 32% of remote workers say they are finding it hard to fully switch off from work
  • 30% of remote workers report working more unpaid hours than before the pandemic (with 18% working at least four additional unpaid hours per week)

Prospect, whose members include scientists, engineers, tech experts and in other specialist roles, has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urging him to include the Right to Disconnect in a consultation in advance of an Employment Bill, which is expected to be included in May’s Queen’s Speech.

Prospect Research Director Andrew Pakes said: “People’s experience of working from home during the pandemic has varied wildly depending on their jobs, their home circumstances, and crucially the behaviour of their employers.

“It is clear that for millions of us, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office, with remote technology meaning it is harder to fully switch off, contributing to poor mental health.

“Remote working is here to stay, but it can be much better than it has been in recent months.

“Including a Right to Disconnect in the Employment Bill would big a big step in redrawing the blurred boundary between home and work and would show that the government is serious about tackling the dark side of remote working.”

Prospect has also published research which shows 37% of workers have a preference to be mostly or completely office-based in the future while 24% want to work mostly or completely from home. About 40% hope for a form of ‘hybrid’ working. The desire to have access to an office at least part of the time was highest among young workers, with 64% saying they would like to work from an office at least some of the time.

The polling also revealed a lack of consultation from employers about future working patterns, with only 22% reporting that they had been consulted so far and 37% not expecting to be consulted in future.

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