Alan McCormack | Senior Associate

‘The Overtime Epidemic’ And The Scottish Government’s Commitment To Discuss A Right For Public Sector Workers To Disconnect

In August 2021, Autonomy thinktank presented a research paper revealing that the Covid-19 Pandemic had led to an ‘epidemic of hidden overtime’, negatively effecting workers’ mental health, and disproportionately impacting working women. The paper proposed the introduction of new laws on the right to disconnect. Similar legislation has already been introduced in France and Ireland.

As part of their recent budget announcements, the Scottish Government has committed to having meaningful discussions on establishing a right to disconnect for public sector employees. The government announced that consideration needed to be given to how to introduce disconnection rights to ensure a ‘balance between the opportunities and flexibility provided by technology, with new ways of working to support the need for staff to feel able to leave their jobs’. Importantly, the government pledge is restricted to civil servants and staff of delegated agencies, and there are not currently plans to establish a wider right for all workers.

Similar discussions have taken place recently in the House of Commons as part of the consultation on making flexible working a day 1 right. The briefing paper published on 30 November 2021, Flexible Working: Remote And Hybrid Work, suggests that amendments could be made to the Employment Rights Act 1996 to give employees the right to disconnect from their work. We anticipate that further discussions will take place in 2022.

If you or someone you know would like to discuss an employment law issue relating to overtime or flexible working, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Team today.

Alan McCormack

Alan McCormack

Employment Law Team

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