Digit Debates: Do workers need a legal right to disconnect?
24 November 2021
Increases in home-working during the pandemic have led to a renewed focus on the impact of connectivity ‘overload’ on workers. An impact that Andrew Pakes, Research Director at Prospect, has vividly described as feeling less like working from home and “more like sleeping in the office”.
Villadsen (2017) has suggested that the phenomenon of over connection is rooted in unhealthy work cultures based on the ‘fantasmic’ assumption that increased connection and ICT use will result in higher levels of worker autonomy and competence. Authors studying connection have sought to analyse the implications of connectivity ‘overload’ for workers, and indeed, the potential costs to organisations (e.g., Hobsbawm, 2018). The dangers of hyperconnectivity for workers and organisations are said to include reduced job satisfaction, a lack of work-life balance, reduced productivity and higher turnover of workers. Some nations have already introduced right to disconnect legislation, although country-specific guidance and implementation strategies vary greatly.
This Digit Debates event brings together a panel of experts from law, academia, trade unionism and journalism to discuss the nature of the problem, the implications and whether a right to disconnect is the answer.
Dr. Caroline Murphy is a Lecturer in Employment Relations at the University of Limerick, and Visiting Research Fellow at the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre. She is Director of the Msc in HRM at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick. She lectures in Employment Relations, Human Resource Analytics, and Human Resource Management. She has worked on a variety of research projects including: The Impact Technology on Workers in the Finance sector (2019), Pathways to Better Jobs in the Early Years Childhood Care and Education Sector (2020), Gender Equality in Decision-Making (funded by European Commission), A Study of Zero Hours Work in Ireland (funded by the DJEI) and Reconciling Employment and ElderCare Together (2016, funded by the Irish Research Council). Her current research interests include precarious employment, female labour market participation, formal and informal care work and employee representation. She has published in Economic and Industrial Democracy, Industrial Law Journal, Industrial Relations Journal, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Journal of Industrial Relations, Personnel Review, Irish Journal of Management.
Andrew Pakes is the Research Director and one of the Deputy General Secretaries at Prospect Union representing over 152,000 members across tech, specialist, engineering and professional roles. He leads Prospect’s work around tech, AI, data rights and the future of work. During the Covid pandemic he has taken a close interest in how digital technologies have impacted on work and wellbeing. A campaigner at heart, Andrew serves on the board of the LGBT+ equality charity Stonewall.
Sacha Sokhi is a Solicitor in the Employment team at Irwin Mitchell. Sacha acts for a variety of professionals and senior executives. She provides pragmatic solutions for employees in all aspects of employment law. Sacha has assisted clients in bringing claims in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, discrimination and whistleblowing. Sacha has also assisted clients in bringing Breach of Contract claims in the County Court and High Court. As well as dealing with contentious matters, Sacha advises on non-contentious employment law issues including internal grievance and disciplinary procedures, restrictive covenants, contracts of employment and exit agreements.
Umberto Bacchi is a correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Tbilisi, Georgia. His work focuses on digital rights. Previously posted in Rome and London, he has also extensively written about humanitarian issues, food security, climate change, inclusive economies, and LGBT+ rights. In 2017, Umberto was the recipient of the Anne Lindh Foundation’s Mediterranean Journalist award, online media category. A law graduate, Umberto holds an MA in journalism and his work for the Thomson Reuters Foundation has appeared in numerous publications including, Reuters, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian and The Independent.