The Future of the Employee’s Right to Disconnect in the European Union and Latvia
Authors: Marta Urbane
Abstract: The right to disconnect refers to a worker's right to be able to disconnect from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communication, like emails and other messages, during non-work hours and holidays. The Latvian Labor Law does not directly determine the right to disconnect from digital devices, however, such rights arise from certain legal norms. Examples of the provisions of the Labor Law relate to the general rules on rest periods and breaks in work. The recent research results of remote work during Covid-19 pandemic conducted by the author show that for 69.3% of respondents working remotely possibility to disconnect from digital devices outside working hours (when the assigned work tasks have been completed) is extremely crucial. If the rights to disconnect are not explicitly regulated, the risk of disbalance between work and private life is at stake. The increase in workload during the emergency caused by COVID-19 was indicated by 42.7% of respondents in Latvia. That shows that another problem of lack of regulation of rights to disconnect could be unpaid overtime. The research shows that 14.7% of respondents were not paid for overtime work when working from home. The practice shows a critical need for sustainable and predictable changes in the legal system to protect employees’ rights and thus ensure stable employment in general in Latvia. It was also recently decided by Employment Committee MEPs that EU countries must ensure that workers are able to exercise the right to disconnect effectively. Some of the member states in the European Union have recently implemented the right into their legal system (Portugal, Spain, France), but each member state takes a different approach. That means that discussion is no longer if there is a need to implement the “right to disconnect” in national legal acts, but how to implement the right efficiently not only at a national level but at the EU level as well.The goal of the research is to provide an in-depth analysis of the legal status of the “right to disconnect” in the legal system of the European Union and Latvia. In order to reach the goal, the author is using various scientific research methods. The paper is based on a quantitative research method and analytical, comparative, case law analysis method to provide valid conclusions on the current role of the “right to disconnect” in Latvia and the European Union. The author also offers recommendations on how to implement the “right to disconnect” efficiently to avoid violation of employees’ rights and ensure a sustainable work environment.In the result, the author has concluded that the biggest impediment of the employee's right to disconnect is the lack of clear legislative preconditions that would encourage businesses to preserve employees' freedom to disconnect, resulting in a more sustainable working environment - both in the office and remotely.Finally, the author concludes that there is a need to adjust regulation in Latvia to meet the needs of widespread use of remote work. The author also concludes that a significant role to protect employees’ right to disconnect is for governmental authorities to explain the right to disconnect to employees and employers.
Keywords: The right to disconnect, remote work, European Union
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