NCP MP Supriya Sule has introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha to give employees the right to not respond to communication from employers outside of office hours.
The Right to Disconnect Bill mandates companies to detail out-of-work demands “as a way to reduce stress and ease tension between an employee’s personal and professional life,” Sule said.
Similar provisions have been implemented via the French Supreme Court, introduced in New York, and discussed in Germany.
An Employee Welfare Authority will be set up, including IT, Communication and Labour ministers, under the Bill which was introduced on December 28. Besides publishing a study regarding the impact of digital tools beyond work hours and yearly reports, the authority is required to outline a charter outlining employee-employer negotiations.
Companies with more than 10 employees would periodically negotiate specific terms with their workers, publish their own charter, and create an Employee Welfare Committee consisting of representatives of the company’s workforce, the Bill states.
The Private Member’s Bill forbids disciplinary action if an employee does not reply to employers’ attempts to contact outside of the established conditions. If the employee works outside of the agreed-upon conditions, he or she is entitled to overtime, according to the Bill.
In addition, the government would have to provide employee counseling, digital detox centers, and similar resources “to free an employee from digital distractions and enable him to truly connect with the people around him”.
Non-adherence would lead to penalties of one per cent of the total employee renumeration
“Studies have found that if an employee is expected to be available round the clock, they tend to exhibit risks of over-work like sleep deprivation, developing stress and being emotionally exhausted,” Sule wrote to The Indian Express. “This persistent urge to respond to calls and e-mails (termed as ‘telepressure’), constant checking of e-mails throughout the day, and even on weekends and holidays, is reported to have destroyed work-life balance of employees.”
Sule’s statement also draws upon research highlighting a dip in productivity after 50-hour work weeks and effects on sleep due to office calls after 9 pm.