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article imageShould there be a right to disconnect from work email?

By Tim Sandle     Sep 1, 2018 in Business
The concept of the eight hour working day has been challenged in many professions by advances in technology, particularly the expectation, or temptation, to check work emails. Is legislation needed to protect workers from undue stress?
Such an idea is being explored in Canada by the Liberal Party, according to CTV News. This is part of a wider consideration of federal labor standards. One of the options being considered is whether a change in the law is needed to provide workers with the right to ignore their job-related emails when they are at home.
This aspect of labor reform is described as a "right to disconnect" and the Liberal Party aims for this to be reviewed in a report on employment policy.
Such a law is already in place in France. The French law (Le droit à la déconnexion) came into effect in 2016 and it enables workers off their electronic work devices outside of business hours without the concern that the employer could take any action. The concern was with unpaid overtime and with the psychological and physiological stress effects associated with burnout.
The process of checking emails when away from the workplace creates high levels of stress, according to research conducted at Virginia Tech. The research found that simply the expectation of checking work email after hours is sufficient to harm the health of workers. Furthermore, the study noted an adverse impact upon the families of workers. The study, which was reviewed on Digital Journal, signaled a warning about 'flexible work boundaries' often turning into 'work without boundaries'.
Other countries and policy makers are also examining the right to disconnect, even to the extent that this idea should become a human right. For example, in July 2018, the Petition 1057 called for introduction of the right to disconnect in the Labor Law in Luxembourg. While the right to disconnect is not the law in Germany, many German companies have a history of implementing policies to the same effect.
With the idea being floated in Canada, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said: "While many concerns were raised during our consultations, one message was clear: Canadians want more work-life balance."
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