Employees might acquire the right to disconnect work calls or emails after office hours, if a private member's bill gets passed in the parliament.
The Right to Disconnect Bill 2018, introduced by NCP MP Supriya Sule, seeks to establish an Employees' Welfare Authority "to confer the right on every employee to disconnect from work-related telephone calls and emails beyond work hours and on holidays and right to refuse to answer calls and emails outside work hours and for all matters connected therewith or incidental thereto."
Section 7 of this Bill states:
"Every employee shall have the right to disconnect out of work hours. Explanation.—For the purpose of this section:—
(a) 'right to disconnect' means that while the employer may contact the worker after work hours, the employee is not obliged to reply or shall have right to refuse to answer such calls; and
(b) In case an employee refuses to reply any call during out-of-work hours, such employee shall not be subject to any disciplinary action by the employer."
The Authority proposed is expected to consist of Minister of State, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology as its Chairperson ex-officio and the Minister of State, Ministry of Communication and Ministry of Labour and Employment as the Vice-Chairmen ex-officio.
This Authority is expected to formulate a charter that outlines the terms and conditions to be negotiated between employees and employers of a company or society, within one year from the date of its constitution. The companies shall be mandated to draft their own policy towards employees working remotely, tele-working and travelling for work.
Besides, it proposes constitution of Employees' Welfare Committees at every company to assist the employees in such negotiations. Provisions to ensure that these negotiations are held frequently at regular intervals, to keep in line with dynamic business demands are to be incorporated.
The Bill also seeks to impose sanctions at the rate of one per cent of its total employees' remuneration, on entities (companies or societies) for any non-compliance with the provisions of the Bill. It further provides for counselling services to increase awareness among employees and citizens, on reasonable use of digital and communication tools, for professional and personal use.
Presently, France in the only country in the world to have a legal provision allowing employees to refuse or not take calls and reply to emails after working hours. The law, which introduced the "right to disconnect", was passed in the year 2017.
The State of Objects and Reasons of the Right to Disconnect Bill, 2018 takes a similar approach, stating that it seeks to recognise the right "as a way to reduce stress and ease tension between an employees personal and professional life".
It acknowledges the stress and sleep deprivation faced by employees who respond to work calls after office hours and states,
"The need is to respect the personal space of the employees by recognising their right to disconnect and not respond to their employer's calls, e-mails etc., during out-of- work hours. The need is also to recognise the rights of the employees, it also takes into consideration the competitive needs of the companies and their diverse work cultures. Flexibility in the right to disconnect rules and leaves it to the individual companies to negotiate terms of service with their employees is need of the hour."
Read the Bill Here