Dutch Labour Party Proposes Law Guaranteeing Employees A Right To Disconnect

Author:Mr Eric Van Dam
Profession:Littler Mendelson

Over the years, the dividing line between work life and private life has become thinner and thinner. Employees tend to feel the pressure to be always on, including during weekends and holidays. Innovations such as smartphones and smartwatches allow employees to get messages, calls, or emails constantly, making it difficult to fully disconnect from work. This strain on employees has led to the introduction of the term technostress in the Netherlands.

Indeed, recent studies lead to the same conclusion: being always online can bring about serious issues. These issues can include burnout, stress, problems in relationships, a decrease in productivity at work, and absenteeism. A study conducted by TNO, an independent research organization, shows that 36% of absences due to sickness is related to work stress, and that one million Dutch people suffer from burnout.

Proposed Right to Disconnect Legislation for the Netherlands

The Labour Party (PvdA) announced that it would like to introduce legislation guaranteeing employees a right to disconnect. According to this proposal, employees must be allowed to completely disconnect from work, outside working hours.

Both the EU Working Time Directive and the Dutch Working Hours Act, which aim to lay down minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace, entitle employees to a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours. The Labour Party proposes to make it a legal right for employees to not respond to email, phone calls, or messages from their managers or colleagues outside working hours. Where the Working Hours Act currently applies only to employees earning less than € 60,000 per year (three times the statutory minimum wage, and roughly $68,000), the Labour Party proposal would apply the right to disconnect to all employees.

Right to Disconnect in France

The discussion on the right to disconnect is not new. In fact, France implemented a right to disconnect in its Labour Code in 2016. Companies in France are required to negotiate and agree with their employees on their right to be disconnected.

However, contrary to common belief abroad, the French right to disconnect is not as strong as it often is portrayed in the press. (Fake news, so to speak.) Our French colleagues separated fact from fiction in an earlier article on this matter. Indeed, the French law does not prohibit employers or employees from sending emails or answering phone calls outside working hours. Rather, it creates an...

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