The coronavirus pandemic and the way authorities have reacted to it have pushed many people towards remote work, with about one third of all employed in the EU working from home, according to the AP. As many employees need to be contactable at all times, the lines between work and private life are becoming increasingly blurred, which is why the EU Parliament has urged that the “right to disconnect” be recognised.
The parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee passed the motion with 31 votes in favour, six against and 18 abstentions. The committee called on the EU Commission to adapt rules to the current situation on the labour market. MEP Alex Agius Saliba pointed out that “the pressure to always be reachable, always available, is mounting, resulting in unpaid overtime and burnout.”
Months of remote work have left many struggling with negative effects like depression, fatigue, isolation and muscular or eye problems, he stated. Before it can be submitted to the EU Commission and member states for a vote, the committee’s resolution must be approved by the full chamber.
Supporters of the resolution warn that the need for employees to stay available around the clock is detrimental to their well-being, adding that workers should be allowed time to disconnect from work without suffering negative consequences.
The committee adopted the resolution days after the German government announced plans to implement tax breaks for remote workers. According to the plan, which is expected to be adopted, remote workers will be able to write off up to 600 euro annually to offset increased heating and electricity costs.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz pointed out that the proposed measure would not present a serious fiscal challenge and added that it would be good for workers. According to current regulations, Germans can write off remote work costs only if they have a room dedicated solely to work. German MP Sebastian Brehm warned that the laws in force are not adapted to today’s situation.