Discussions with government officials are underway to push legislation on the right to disconnect after work hours, the General Workers Union confirmed.
This comes after a proposal, spearheaded by MEP Alex Agius Saliba, was passed in European Parliament last week.
If enshrined in law, EU member states like Malta will be obliged to ensure that workers can disconnect after office hours and ban the dismissal, discrimination or less favourable treatment of workers who exercise the right.
The European Parliament’s report urges the European Commission to introduce legislation within the next two years. Meanwhile, the General Workers Union is in talks with the OPM Minister Carmelo Abela, to make Malta a role model for the rest of the bloc in terms of workers’ rights.
The digitalisation of the working world, which accelerated by the on-going pandemic, made it easier for employees to engage in remote work but also blurred the lines private and professional life.
“Digitalisation brought several advantages, including flexibility in working time, teleworking, a better work-life balance, reduced traffic, less parking problems and reduced pollution. However there are also disadvantages because people are working longer hours and remain ‘connected’,” a union spokesperson told Lovin Malta.
“The GWU believes that employees need protection on the right to disconnect, to strike a balance between work, leisure and family time.”
A survey by Malta’s National Statistics Office found that nearly half (45%) of employees were contacted after hours in 2020. In Europe, 27% of people who worked from home worked outside of their working hours, according to the European Parliament.
“This is having a detrimental effect on workers’ mental health and is also a violation of workers’ fundamental rights like fair pay, health and safety. This also means that the rate of remuneration has decreased because people are working more,” the GWU added.
The union also proposed that employees in public and private sectors are paid for all hours worked, including those working outside office hours. Legislation should be tailor-made for the needs and constraints of companies and safeguard their right to disconnect without any repercussions.
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