At a Malta IT Law Association (MITLA) webinar on the right to disconnect, attended by prominent figures including Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba, it was concluded that “the ability to disconnect lies with the employee not the employer”.
As such, employees have a “right to choose whether they want to disconnect or not”, but this should not be imposed on those who do not want to disconnect.
The webinar was organised by the association as the first stage of what it perceives as the need for a “general public debate” between stakeholders, “including employees, employers, trade unions and professions”.
It was attended by expert panellists, including Andre Xuereb, Ambassador for Digital Affairs, Charlotte Camilleri, Executive in EU and Legal Affairs at the Malta Employers Association, JP Fabri, Economist and co-Founding Partner at Seed Consultancy, and Paul Gonzi, Partner at Fenech & Fenech.
From the webinar, the organisation has released a series of outcomes. Firstly, it emphasises the need for all social partners to be involved in discussions before any legislative stance is taken.
Additionally, it says that the webinar exposed a need to explore the right to disconnect, not necessarily as a fundamental human right regulated by law, “but also a guiding principle”, focusing more on self-regulation and open discussion between employers’ associations and workers unions.
What’s more, the right to disconnect “should not be a one size fits all solution” as rules cannot be imposed for all industries and situations.
Another conclusion of the webinar was that “the general health and wellbeing of employees should be a priority”.
Finally, the webinar identified what the MITLA describes as the “physical world and digital world [mirroring] each other”, meaning that just as an employee cannot be expected to remain at their place of employment constantly, they cannot be expected to be always digitally connected.
Also at the webinar, the organisation presented the results obtained following a survey of the general public. 23.4 per cent of respondents said that they are unable to disconnect from work outside of office hours and 49.4 per cent said that they are sometimes able to do so.
When asked whether they were able to disconnect from work when on vacation leave, 14.5 per cent of respondents indicated they are not.
37.8 per cent of respondents cited client/customer demands as the reason they were unable to disconnect. 25.7 per cent cited industry expectations and 20.3 per cent cited employer demands as the reason they are unable to disconnect.
The controversial proposed Right to Disconnect is a measure allowing workers to refrain from engaging in work-related tasks, activities, electronic communication or other forms of communication outside of work activities.
Whilst an EU directive on the measure is expected in the coming years, pro-business groups, including Malta Business Bureau, the Malta Chamber, and the Malta Employers Association have vehemently rejected suggestions that Malta should introduce its own national legislation on the issue preemptively.
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