New Delhi: Working beyond office hours is a necessary evil. The changing economic landscape, job profile, mobile and internet has redefined work-life, but experts maintain that long working hours have robbed generations of leisure time. But there may be a solution in sight.
1. NCP MP in Lok Sabha Supriya Sule has come up with a private members bill in Parliament which give employees the right to not respond to communication from employers outside of office hours. Private members bill is not intended for passage, unless under some extraordinary circumstances, but aimed at drawing the attention of the law makers to issues demanding legislative action. Some of the private members bill have even went on to become law.
2. The ‘Right to Disconnect Bill’, introduced in the just concluded Winter session of Parliament, 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.
3. 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.
4. Similar provisions have been implemented via the French Supreme Court, introduced in New York, and discussed in Germany, the MP adds.
5. “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 told 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.”
6. The provision of the bill calls for setting up an Employee Welfare Authority in the sphere of IT, Communication and Labour ministers. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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”.
9. Sule’s bill has triggered a debate on HR practices. One HR firm has linked a post of an article by Geoffrey James, contributing editor of Inc.com. Highlighting a research study done on employees of a large consulting firm in US, he has sought to put forth the benefits as well as the health risks associated with long working hours.
10. According to him, the research found no association between work hours per se and either stress related physical complaints, such as headache or stomach upsets, or the four risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. The research did, however, find health problems among people who worked long hours due to anxiety about the job, pressure from bosses or peers, or obsessive ambition that was tied to their sense of self-worth.