ELI Dissemination Webinar on Implementing Workers’ Right to Disconnect


On 13 November 2023, ELI hosted a webinar on its recently published Guiding Principles on Implementing Workers’ Right to Disconnect.

The webinar was opened by ELI President Pascal Pichonnaz (Professor, University of Fribourg), who explained that the ELI Guiding Principles, available here, aim at supporting legislators and social partners in striking a balance between the conflicting rights of employers and employees, at a time of increasing use of digital and technological tools. At the core of the Principles is a desire to protect the physical and mental health of all workers, by guaranteeing resting time and improving the predictability of working schedules.

ELI Project Reporters Karine Lempen (Professor, University of Geneva) and Luca Ratti (Professor, University of Luxembourg) presented the ELI Guiding Principles. Ratti referred to two phenomena in the labour market after the Covid-19 pandemic – hyperconnectivity and time porosity – that prompted this project. Underlying the need for ELI’s project was also the patchwork of existing regulations at EU and national level in the field. Ratti observed, however, the gradually increasing regulation at national level. He then pointed to the 2021 European Parliament Resolution (2019/2181(INL)) calling on the Commission to elaborate on a directive in the field, which fuelled ELI’s resolve to contribute to the legislative discourse. The ELI Guiding Principles, he said aim at providing guidance both at EU and national level, building on existing laws and initiatives. He went on to present Guiding Principles 1 (purpose), 2 (scope) and 3 (preventative action and information). Lempen continued by presenting Guiding Principles 4 (duty to reconnect), 5 (level of regulation), 6 (protection against adverse treatment or consequences), 7 (monitoring and enforcement) and 9 (sanctions).

Martine Humblet (Legal Specialist on Working Conditions, International Labour Organisation (ILO)) underlined that this is a very important topic for the ILO as well. So far, the ILO does not have a standard on the right to disconnect, however, the right closely relates to their work on working time, including in the context of teleworkers and mobile workers. She went on to present the different ILO initiatives. Humblet welcomed the ELI Guiding Principles and expressed her hopes that they will encourage Members States to regulate the right to disconnect. She provided specific remarks on the Principles dealing with purpose, the level of regulation and protection against adverse treatment, and underlined the importance of a change in workplace culture in implementing the right to disconnect.

Max Uebe (European Commission, Head of Unit ‘Future of Work, Youth Employment’) presented recent developments on the right to disconnect at EU level, including the European Parliament’s 2021 Resolution. The Commission responded to the resolution by inviting social partners to reach an agreement, which the Commission would assess when following up on a legislative proposal. Negotiations between the social partners are on-going at the moment and the next steps at EU level will be determined in light of them. He congratulated the ELI team for the Guiding Principles, pointing out that numerous notions contained therein are in line with the objectives of EU policy. Among other things, he concurred with Humblet on the need for a shift in organisational and working culture and stressed the importance of ELI Guiding Principle 6 on protecting workers against adverse treatment or consequences.

Ralf Saller (Council of the European Union General Secretariat, Directorate for Employment and Social Policy) thanked ELI for the Guiding Principles, which will be an important source for consideration once/if there will be a legislative proposal at EU level. Referring to the on-going negotiations of social partners, he explained the provision on social partner consultation at EU level (Articles 154(4) and 155(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), which calls for a dialogue between ‘management’ and ‘labour’ to ensure the balanced support for the parties. He went on to present different Council conclusions relating to the right to disconnect, including on telework and mental health and precarious work, and wondered about the link between the right to disconnect and the Court of Justice of the European Union’s C-55/18 – CCOO ruling, which set out an obligation to register working time. Saller underlined the central role of social partners in regulating the right to disconnect.

The presentations were followed by a stimulating discussion among speakers, considering among other things the relationship between the right and duty to disconnect and the applicability of the right to disconnect to workers considering their status and responsibilities.

The recording of the event is available below: