Digital technologies make it possible to
work at any time and from anywhere, with resulting advantages and disadvantages
such as "constant availability", which can lead to a blurring of the
boundaries between people's working and private lives and bring risks to their
health and well-being.
Intense discussions are being held about
the need for a right of non-availability to counter this. In its resolution of
January 2021, the European Parliament called on the EC to submit a legislative
proposal that would guarantee the right of non-availability (see Report 1-2021).
The EC has assured that there will be
adequate follow-up, most recently in its EU Strategic framework for Occupational Safety and Health
2021-2027. However, it initially sees the social partners as being responsible
here. They should agree on common solutions to the challenges posed by
teleworking, digitisation and the right to be unavailable, building on the
social partners' framework agreement on digitisation.
Promotion of collective bargaining
Eurofound (European Foundation for the
Improvement of Living and Working Conditions) has now carried out a study that used case studies to examine how the right of
non-availability has been implemented and the effects on employees health and
well-being as well as separating private and professional lives. The study also
concluded that a legislative approach requiring action by the social partners
could encourage their collective bargaining activity on this issue, but without
restricting the practical implementation of the right of non-availability.
Experience gained in those countries that
introduced such a system showed that the number of collective agreements
regulating this issue at sectoral and company levels had increased during the
drafting and after the relevant legislation was adopted.
With regard to implementations being based
solely on the activities of the social partners, it should be borne in mind
that their strength and traditional industrial relations are not guaranteed to
the same extent in all countries. In these cases, legislation could help to
ensure compliance with minimum standards.
Change in corporate culture
At corporate level, it appears that both
employers and employees believe that implementing the right of non-availability
has contributed to a change in corporate culture and to the realisation that
the expansion of digital, flexible working should not go hand-in-hand with the
expectation of constant availability.
However, with regard to implementation,
'soft' approaches, such as raising awareness of the risks of constant
availability and regular reminders that messages need not be answered outside
working hours, would be preferred to 'hard' approaches in the form of
interrupting work-related communications during specific periods.
Research into the impact of teleworking on
working hours, work/life balance and employees health and well-being suggests
the need for improvements in enforcing the existing legislation.
The impact of the relevant EU directives
and the European social partners' framework agreement on digitisation would
need to be assessed to determine whether they are sufficient to meet the
Regardless of whether provisions are laid
down in legislation or the social partner agreement, indicators for monitoring
and evaluating the implementation of the right of non-availability and helping
to identify any need for revision should also be introduced. Consideration
should also be given to the factors that contribute to the
"perceived" need for constant availability, such as workload, lack of
training or working processes that can lead to overloading.