Two-thirds of UK home workers back a ‘Right to Disconnect’, poll shows

13 April 2021

We are demanding action in the Employment Bill as ‘dark side’ of remote working starts to take toll.

Two thirds of home workers in the UK want to see a new ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy in the forthcoming Employment Bill, new polling from Prospect union has found.

The polling from Opinium found that 66% of those currently working remotely 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 found that support for the policy was strong across all age groups and with voters from all political parties, with 53% of Conservative voting workers supporting the idea compared to just 22% opposed. Overall 59% of workers support the idea with 17% opposed.

Prospect Research Director Andrew Pakes 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 millions 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 Employment Bill would big 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.”

Wellbeing and digital impact of remote working

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

  • 35% of remote workers say their work-related mental health has got worse during the pandemic with 42% saying this is at least partly a result of inability to switch off from work
  • In total 32% of remote workers say they are finding it hard to fully switch off from work
  • 30% of remote workers report working more unpaid hours than before the pandemic (with 18% working at least 4 additional unpaid hours per week)

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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