The law of 3 October 2022 containing various labour provisions treats employers to yet another headache. Employers can now put the ‘right to disconnect’ on their to-do list – in addition to all the other new elements of the Labour Deal (3/10/2022) and the Law on Transparent Working Conditions (7/10/2022).
In summary, the right to disconnection can be described for employees as the right not to be accessible.
While it is obviously a good thing that employees will henceforth know that they cannot be obliged to be accessible all the time, the practical effect is by no means obvious. Moreover, from the welfare point of view, one might question the expected results of this legal regulation now that constant use of their mobiles phones is in any case part of many workers’ (private) lives.
So here are the rules:
Who does it apply to?
Employers who employ 20 or more employees.
What is it?
The terms of employees’ right to disconnection: companies’ implementation of mechanisms to regulate the use of digital tools.
The right to disconnection is about respecting rest periods and the balance between private and professional life.
- via a company collective bargaining agreement
- or via the employment regulations (where the full amendment procedure must be followed)
Employers have been given an extension until 1 April 2023 to file a collective bargaining agreement or provide a copy of the labour regulations.
What specifically should employers do?
In their policies, employers must:
- lay down practical provisions to ensure that the employee’s right not to be accessible outside his hourly schedules can be respected;
- provide guidelines so that all (professional?) digital tools safeguard rest periods, leave, and private and family life
- organise training and awareness-raising activities for employees and managers on the ‘wise use’ of digital tools and the risks associated with over-connection.
Examples of practical details
- guidelines for not answering emails or mobile calls
- switching off of servers outside working hours
- activation of out-of-office and referral messages
- use of an email signature emphasising the non-necessity of an immediate response.
It is important to be constructive and leave room for flexibility. We therefore recommend avoiding prohibitions such as, ‘You are not allowed to answer mails after 6pm.’ It is preferable to choose positive wording, such as, ‘We expect employees to be accessible between 9am and 5pm’.
Whether employees then actually flip the switch to ‘free time’ at the appropriate moments is partly their own responsibility.
A review by the National Labour Council is due by 30 June 2024 at the last.
Our Bofidi experts will be happy to help you
Do you have specific questions about the right to disconnect? If so, please do not hesitate to contact Peter Stroobants. He and the Bofidi team of experts will be happy to help you.
This article was written by Peter Stroobants, lawyer in labour and social law.