The rise of electronic communication means work can be done at any time. While it may be good news for productivity, the pressure it exerts on workers in their own time, has prompted a growing interest in Luxembourg in the right to disconnect.
This proposed human right would ensure people would not feel pressure to read or respond to work emails or answer calls outside of work hours. So far, France and Italy are the only European countries to have introduced law enshrining this right. Luxembourg could be next, however, if a recently launched petition achieves the 4,500 signatures required to ensure a public debate.
The author of petition 1057 calls for the right to disconnect to be enshrined in Luxembourg law. Digital tools and smartphones “allow a work day of 24 hours, seven days a week, and invade our personal lives and free time,” Mohamed Ali Mohamed Shiha writes, adding that such practices “increase stress levels and the rate of burnout”.
A growing problem
A 2016 staff survey of over 1,500 workers commissioned by the Chamber of Employees showed the risk of burnout was on the up, rising from 16% in 2015 to 23% the following year. Respondents cited excessive workloads and lack of autonomy among the stress factors. And the habit of taking one’s work home appears to be widespread given that a Deloitte global mobile survey published in 2017 found that almost 6 out of 10 Luxembourg respondents used their smartphones for work email.
Worst of all is the fact that this additional time is not taken into account in official calculations of working hours, which is why Luxembourg is often ranked among the places for working less and earning more, such as in the recent expert market report.
Working conditions trend
The petition author proposes some solutions: a ban on companies sending emails 30 minutes or more after the end of the working day; a system for reporting work emails received from managers out of hours; and compensation equivalent to a quarter hour’s pay per email received from management 30 minutes after the workday has finished.
Companies, he said, should be prevented from introducing contractual conditions requiring employees to waive their right to disconnect. What is more, employee bonus and pay should not be disadvantaged if they do not read or respond to emails after hours, the petitioner writes.
The petition follows a recent trend for petitions related to working conditions in Luxembourg, for example petition 1056, on performance enhancing drugs in the workplace. Yet it appears to have missed its target or been slow to find it--at the time of writing, the petition had just 217 signatures, well short of the 4,500 required to request a parliamentary debate on the subject. The petition closes on 4 September.