More than two-thirds of Scottish workers back a ‘Right to Disconnect’ poll shows

15 April 2021

More than two-thirds of workers in Scotland want to see a new ‘right to disconnect’ policy in the forthcoming Westminster Employment Bill, new polling from Prospect union has found.

The polling from Opinium found that 70% of those in Scotland (59% in the UK) would support the policy, which would require companies to negotiate with their staff and agree rules on when people could not be contacted for work purposes.

Many countries have adopted similar policies in light of the rise of remote working, with the Republic of Ireland introducing new rules last week and the European Parliament supporting similar proposals in January. The Canadian government has recently established a Right To Disconnect Advisory Committee comprising business leaders and unions to set out new rules on a digital switch-off.

Prospect Scottish National Secretary Richard Hardy said: 

“People’s experience of working from home during the pandemic has varied wildly depending on their jobs, their home circumstances, and crucially the behaviour of their employers.

“It is clear that for many of us, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office, with remote technology meaning it is harder to fully switch off, contributing to poor mental health.

“Remote working is here to stay, but it can be much better than it has been in recent months.

“Including a Right to Disconnect in the UK Employment Bill would be a big step in redrawing the blurred boundary between home and work and would show that the government is serious about tackling the dark side of remote working.

“The Scottish Government could lead the way by introducing a right to disconnect for all public employees, keeping pace with our European partners.”

Wellbeing and digital impact of remote working

The potential downsides of prolonged remote working were explored in the research which found that:

  • 21% of Scottish workers (30% in the UK) say their work-related mental health has got worse during the pandemic
  • In total 23% of Scottish workers (26% in the UK) say they are finding it hard to fully switch off from work

Prospect say the figures reveal the ‘dark side’ of remote working and that legislative change is needed to help deal with the consequences of the continuation of mass working from home after the pandemic.

Prospect has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urging him to include the Right to Disconnect in a consultation in advance of an Employment Bill, which is expected to be included in May’s Queen’s Speech.

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