Consultation of the European Commission on a new EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work: European Sunday Alliance calls for EU action on a right to be disconnected in the EU Member States
Responding to the European Commission’s consultation, the European Sunday Alliance states: “The Covid lockdowns have accelerated trends towards increasing levels of mobile & home working. With the rise of digital working, the fragmentation of working time has further proceeded. Working in the evenings & during weekends is increasingly common and indeed expected by many employers. This increases stress for workers while it affects their work-life balance; and this compromises the health and wellbeing of workers, making them not only sick in the long run but also causing increasingly more often their absence from work due to psychosocial illness for sustained periods of time.
Regrettably, in 1996 the EU working time directive was stripped of a provision to include Sunday as common day of rest for workers because in case C-84/96, when the ECJ found that the Council ‘failed to explain [with regard to the directive,] why Sunday, as a weekly rest of day, is more closely connected with the health and safety of workers than any other day of the week.’
The notion that a weekly rest day nurtures occupational health was NOT disputed by the court. For the sake of occupational health for workers, it is high time that the European Commission tables a proposal for a directive on a right to be disconnected which aligns with article 2 of the Council of Europe's Social Charter which already requires ‘a weekly rest period which shall, as far as possible, coincide with the day recognised by tradition or custom in the country or region concerned as a day of rest.’
According to the European Sunday Alliance, such a common day is indeed indispensable for the wellbeing and hence health of workers: Only during a common day of rest is it possible to pursue volunteer work, civic engagement, joint social, sports or faith-related activities, family time and, more generally, to spend time together. Humans are social beings and their health requires more than individual time off at random moments of the week to spend in social media or alone in front of the TV.
The next Framework should require Eurofound & EU-OSHA to establish research based on these considerations & foresee EU action for a right to be disconnected that includes a common day of rest – as demanded also by the Parliament in recital 5 of its recent legislative initiative report on the topic.”