European Parliament to vote on Agius Saliba 'right to disconnect' report

The European parliament will today formally vote on the Right to Disconnect report that calls for an EU directive to grant this right to all workers within the union


The European parliament will today formally vote on the Right to Disconnect report that calls for an EU directive to grant this right to all workers within the union.   

Speaking at a press conference via Zoom, Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba  - the parliament’s rapporteur - said that in order for the directive to pass, it needed a qualified majority of 357 votes.

Yesterday, the Right to Disconnect report was debated in the European parliament, and MEPs voted on amendments to the directive, ahead of the final vote Thursday afternoon.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. Now, more than one in three European workers are working from home. The pressure to be always ‘on’, always reachable, is growing as the boundaries between private life and work life are increasingly becoming blurred," Agius Saliba said.

He said that working from home makes it particularly difficult to switch off. The MEP said that studies show that people who regularly work from home are twice as likely to work more than the maximum 48 hours per week limit laid down in EU law.

The human cost is high, he said. “From unpaid overtime to muscular and eye illnesses, to depression and burnout.”

“We cannot abandon millions of European workers, who keep going and do their jobs under the extremely difficult circumstances of the pandemic, but who are exhausted by the pressure to be always ‘on’ and the extended working hours. Now is the moment to stand by their side and give them what they deserve: the right to disconnect,” Agius Saliba said.

The right to disconnect allows workers to refrain from engaging in work-related tasks, activities and electronic communication, such as phone calls, emails and other messages, outside their working time, including during rest periods, official and annual holidays, maternity, paternity and parental leave, and other types of leave, without facing any adverse consequences.

“After working hours or while on holidays, workers must be able to switch off their phone or emails without fear of negative consequences. This is vital for our mental and physical health. It is time to update worker’s rights to the new realities of the digital age,” Agius Saliba said.

Agius Saliba highlighted that there was a strong lobby fighting against the report being approved at parliament, however, he said the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats were united on this issue.

In a statement, MEP, S&D spokesperson on employment and social rights Agnes Jongerius said that in this vote, the EPP and Renew will have to show “their true colours” and decide on which side of history they want to go down.

“In my eyes, it would be shameful to deny millions of workers their desperately needed right to disconnect and a sin not to ensure that the technological progress of digitisation brings social progress for the many,” Jongerius said.

Malta’s race to implement directive first

In December, Minister within the Office of Prime Minister Carmelo Abela said that legislation on the right to disconnect will form part of wider legislation on remote working.

Intentions in introducing a “right to disconnect” law were first put forward in November by Abela himself, who had revealed that there are ongoing discussions on a first draft of such a legislative framework. Abela had said that Malta wanted to become the first European member state to introduce a law.

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