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Union urges ministers to give remote workers a 'right to disconnect'

Research suggests that UK employees working from home are doing up to four hours of additional, unpaid work

Woman working from home late into the night

UK ministers are being urged to include a 'right to disconnect' policy in the forthcoming Employment Bill to address the boundaries between work and home life.

Tech workers union Prospect wants a legal requirement put in place to force companies to discuss when they can contact their employees while working from home

Around two-thirds of UK workers want to see a 'right to disconnect' policy put in place, according to a Prospect poll commissioned by Opinium. The organisations 2,248 UK workers over the first week of April and found that 66% would support the policy if it was brought in. This was a strong stance across all age groups and political affiliations, according to Prospect, with 53% of Conservative voters in favour. 

Including a right to disconnect in the Employment Bill would a big step in redefining blurred boundaries and would show that the government is serious about tackling the "dark side" of remote working, according to Prospect's research director Andrew Pakes. 

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"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," Pakes said.  

"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."  

Mental health problems featured in the survey with 35% of participants suggesting their 'work-related mental health' had gotten worse during the pandemic. 42% said it was partly due to the inability to switch off from the jobs with 30% stating that they were working more unpaid hours than before the pandemic - 18% suggesting this was at least four hours of additional work.

A number of other countries, such as France and Ireland, have some form of the right to disconnect enshrined in law which is also supported by the European Parliament. 

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