The Right to Disconnect Bill, if passed, could help employees reduce stress and ease tension between an employee's work and professional life
Annoyed with work calls after office hours? Left for home when your boss calls you back for last-minute work? May be, you are stressed over the possibility of getting a work call on Sunday. Well, if Member of Parliament (MP) Supriya Sule gets her way, you will not face these situations again.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) member Supriya Sule on December 28 presented a private member bill which would allow employees to refuse work-related calls and emails beyond office hours and holidays.
The Right to Disconnect Bill mandates companies to detail out-of-work demands “as a way to reduce stress and ease tension between an employee’s personal and professional life", Sule said.
As per the bill, an Employee Welfare Authority will be set up, including ministers from other departments like IT, Communication and Labour. Besides publishing a study regarding the impact of digital tools beyond work hours and yearly reports, the authority is required to outline a charter outlining employee-employer negotiations.
In addition, the Bill also states that companies with more than 10 employees would negotiate specific terms and conditions with their workers, publish their own charter and create an Employee Welfare Committee consisting of representatives from the company’s workforce.
Companies cannot take any action against employees if they do not receive or refuse to accept work-related calls outside of the accepted terms. An employee is entitled to work overtime if he or she has agreed to work outside of the established conditions.
The Bill also states that the government would have to set up digital detox centres, employee counselling centres and other resources that “free an employee from digital distraction and enable him to connect with the people around him truly”. If companies fail to do so and not follow the set conditions, it will lead to a one percent penalty to the employee’s total remuneration.
“Studies have found that if an employee is expected to be available round-the-clock, they tend to exhibit risks of over-working like sleep deprivation, developing stress and being emotionally exhausted,” Sule wrote to The Indian Express. “This persistent urge to respond to calls and e-mails (termed as ‘telepressure’), constant checking of e-mails throughout the day, and even on weekends and holidays, is reported to have destroyed the work-life balance of employees.”Sule’s statement also draws a highlight to a report that states an employee’s productivity dips after 50-hour work weeks and affects sleep due to office calls post-working hours. Similar provisions have been implemented by the French Supreme Court, introduced in New York and being discussed in Germany.