Scottish Government announces support for Right To Disconnect following Prospect campaign

9 December 2021

The Scottish Government has become the first in the UK to announce support for a Right To Disconnect for staff working for them and devolved agencies

Alongside today’s budget statement the Scottish Government has announced that there is an expectation that bodies responsible to Scottish Ministers will have meaningful discussions on a  Right To Disconnect.

The announcement is a victory for Prospect who have been campaigning for a Right To Disconnect for workers since the start of the pandemic. The Right To Disconnect recognises that remote and hybrid working has accelerated burnout and put pressure increasing pressure on work life balance for many workers.

The Right To Disconnect allows workers to disconnect from work outside of normal working hours, for example by banning late night emails, or making clear that workers are not expected to read or respond to them till their next working day.

Prospect polling from Opinium in April 2021 found that a third of remote workers said they found it difficult to fully switch off from work and increasingly working out of hours. 35 per cent of remote workers also said their work-related mental health had got worse during the pandemic.

As a leading public service union Prospect has been lobbying the Scottish Government to adopt the Right To Disconnect as part of its wider campaign across the union.

Prospect wants to see the right established based on conversations between unions and employers to put in place the right rules and culture for each workplace rather than a one size fits all approach.

Richard Hardy, Prospect National Secretary said:

“This is an important step forward in our campaign to achieve a Right To Disconnect for public sector workers in Scotland.

“We are consistently hearing reports of an increase in burn out, stress and blurring of lines between home and work life. This is a trend that existed before the pandemic but has been accelerated because of it.

“We have seen Right To Disconnect supported by the Scottish Fair Work Convention, and now have been successful in persuading Scottish Ministers to progress this for their own staff. It’s been good to work with Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on this issue and pay tribute to their support for this important concept.

“We will now seek to engage with employers and our members to progress this in each workplace.”

Andrew Pakes, Prospect Director of Communications and Research 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.

“This latest move by the Scottish Government will put the spotlight on burnout and tackling our growing digital always-on culture.

“Scotland joins a growing movement for a Right To Disconnect joining countries like Ireland, France and Portugal who have all set new rules for how we manage hybrid working and helping workers to switch-off from work.

“The best employers are already recognising the importance of agreeing with their staff the boundaries between work and home life. This is because it delivers more satisfied and productive staff, who are more likely to stay.

“But we need government action too. The Scottish government are now moving forward for their own staff, it is time for the UK government to bring forward an Employment Bill, and include this right for workers right across the UK.”

Read the Public sector pay policy 2022 to 2023 which contains the commitment on the Right To Disconnect

Read the polling

Prospect research and guide on the Right To Disconnect 

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