Brussels – Working from home during the pandemic has kept colleagues from spreading the coronavirus in the office but, in many cases, it’s also meant longer hours for employees spent toiling away at a computer or on Zoom calls.
The European parliament wants to change that. Employees in Europe should have legal rights to switch off from work-related tasks and electronic communication outside of office hours without facing consequences, European lawmakers said last week.
A majority of the European parliament, 472 representatives, backed a nonbinding call on Jan. 21 urging the bloc’s executive, the European Commission, to propose new rules enshrining the rights for workers in European Union law.
“Thank you for supporting European workers,” Alex Agius Saliba, a center-left member of the European parliament who pushed for the changes, wrote on Twitter, adding that he was urging the commission to “make a proposal for legislation quickly.”
The commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Some European countries, including France, already have a right to disconnect written into national law.
If the commission decides to heed the parliament’s call, it could still take years before new rules enter into force. The commission would first have to draw up a legislative proposal, which subsequently would need approval by the bloc’s lawmaking institutions.
The coronavirus has exacerbated mental stress for employees around the world, many of whom are out of work or fear they may lose their jobs. Working from home has also blurred the lines of work and family life, with parents having to juggle schooling children in addition to day jobs.
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