How many managers reading this update have emailed their team members after their contractual working hours have ended with the expectation of a response or not?
Unions have recently been calling on the Government to consider amending the employment bill to stop employers emailing employees outside of their working hours. It has been reported that over two thirds of employees currently working remotely are in favour of a change to keeping personal and working lives separate.
The pandemic has significantly changed the way we do business and in turn the flexibility that working from home creates for lots of employees. That being said, there is still a need to ensure the days that employees work don’t lengthen due to not having the usual commute times. It is important for everyone’s health and wellbeing that employees are able to switch off from the work tasks to deal with the matters at home and find a degree of separation in the new world of work we live in.
In April 2021, Ireland introduced the ‘Right to Disconnect’, which allows employees to not have to work routinely outside of their working hours. The Irish Government are seeking to make permanent changes for the better and the new law was implemented with the intention of ‘striking a better work-life balance.’ Other countries (France, German and Italy) have or are seemingly following suit with changes to their laws so, it seems like only a matter of time before the UK Government considers this a priority.
So, as an employer what can you do to safeguard yourself against claims in the future.
- Where employees are working from home, ensure you keep timesheets for the hours worked and ensure you retain these for at least the last three years
- If there is a chance of your employee working more than 48 hours per week, ensure they have opted out of the working time directive maximum hours
- Regularly check the time worked for all employees to identify any high levels of working hours and discuss these with the employee to establish if there are capacity or capability issues
- Encourage employees to talk about working hours and any times where these might become excessive, discourage any excessive working and ensure you put this in writing to the employee
- If you are emailing employees after their working hours because it suits you to work beyond that time, ensure you have told your staff that you don’t expect them to open or do anything with the email until they return to work
- Use the timer function on emails after hours, so that the email doesn’t get sent until the employee is back in work
- If you have the facility in your email system, block emails to employees after working hours with an email curfew to respect leisure time for employees and reduce workplace stress associated with being ‘switched on’ and ‘plugged in.’
If you have any concerns over your employees working hours or need advice particularly in relation to out of hours working, please contact us here and we will advise accordingly.