Scottish Government workers set to be given ‘right to disconnect’

Government announces it will enter into discussions over rules allowing workers to disconnect from remote systems and shun late-night emails

Credit: Aleksandar Cvetanović/Pixabay

Scottish Government workers may be the first public sector staff in the country to have a so-called right to disconnect enshrined in their working conditions.

Alongside its budget announcement this week, the government indicated that it will enter into “meaningful discussions” about the possibility of providing such a right to employees of ministerial agencies and their arm’s-length bodies.

This could mean staff working from home could benefit from contractual rights to disconnect from work systems outside of normal office hours and an official policy that evening emails need not be opened or responded to until the following day,

The news was claimed as a victory by union Prospect, which represents thousands of civil servants and, since the start of the pandemic, has led a campaign for organisations to introduce a right to disconnect.


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The union said that the introduction of this right “recognises that remote and hybrid working has accelerated burnout and put pressure increasing pressure on work life balance for many workers”.

Andrew Pakes, Prospect director of communications and research, 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. This latest move by the Scottish Government will put the spotlight on burnout and tackling our growing digital always-on culture. Scotland joins a growing movement for a Right To Disconnect joining countries like Ireland, France and Portugal who have all set new rules for how we manage hybrid working and helping workers to switch-off from work.”

Research undertaken by Opinium earlier this year on behalf of Prospect found that a third of remote workers found it difficult to switch off from their job and increasingly found themselves performing their duties outside of normal working hours.

“The best employers are already recognising the importance of agreeing with their staff the boundaries between work and home life. This is because it delivers more satisfied and productive staff, who are more likely to stay,” Pakes said. “But we need government action too. The Scottish government are now moving forward for their own staff, it is time for the UK government to bring forward an Employment Bill, and include this right for workers right across the UK.”

 

Sam Trendall

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