Tuesday 22 June 2021

Office hours? PvdA says home workers should have the right to switch off

A mother working from home on her laptop with her young child sitting on the table beside her.

Photo: Depositphotos

The PvdA wants to make the ‘right to disconnect’ part of national legislation on working hours, in order to stop employers emailing or calling workers at all times of the day or night.

MP Gijs van Dijk, who proposed a bill to this effect on Thursday, said employers should come to an agreement with workers about when they can be contacted or face warnings and fines from social affairs ministry inspectors.

The coronavirus crisis has made it all the more obvious that the line between work and private life is becoming too vague, Van Dijk told MPs.

‘People have been working from home a lot in the last year,’ Van Dijk said. ‘They have been answering emails from their employers during the night because they had to help their children do their schoolwork during the day.

‘After work you have a right to empty your head. I don’t think employers can expect people to react to mail, calls or messages during that time. In France that is the law already,’ Van Dijk said.

Van Dijk also pointed out that burn-out is the number one cause of absenteeism in the Netherlands. Over a million people experience symptoms of stress or burn-out, he said, while figures from statistics agency CBS have shown that both regular staff and the self-employed working from home work longer hours.

The Council of State, which vets the legal aspects of bills, has criticised the proposal because the it does not stipulate there should be binding agreements.

But Van Dijk said it could and that a discussion alone would be better than nothing ‘because very few employers have been prepared to broach the subject.’

GroenLinks and D66 also included the right to disconnect in their election programmes and are expected to support the bill.

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