Labor group backs ‘right to disconnect’ bill

Published by reposted only Date posted on February 11, 2017

By Leslie Ann G. Aquino, Manila Bulletin, Feb 11, 2017

The proposed bill that will allow workers to “disconnect” or ignore text messages, phone calls and e-mails from superiors after work hours gained the support of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

TUCP said workers should be given the “right to disconnect” and not be reprimanded or penalized for not responding to text messages and emails sent or received after work hours.

“Although it is the employee’s choice to either respond or ignore electronic communications after work, they are constrained to respond anyway for fear of reprimand from overbearing bosses,” TUCP President Ruben Torres said.

Authored by Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, House Bill 4721 or An Act Granting Employees the Right to Disconnect from Work-Related Electronic Communications after Work Hours defines work hours to include “time spent reading and responding through electronic means, including but not limited to emails, short messaging services (SMS), and mobile phone calls, after work hours.

TUCP said while information technology helped increase productivity and connectivity, workers must be given “a choice and compensated for doing work-related communications after work.”

According to the group unpaid work hours spent in answering employers’ text messages and emails is widespread.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III earlier said the “right to disconnect,” or letting employees disregard work-related communications after office hours without disciplinary action is, technically, a voluntary engagement between employers and their employees.

“Answering or ignoring texts, emails from employers after working hours is a voluntary engagement of an employee, and they are not obliged to respond or not. The right to disconnect is a choice of an employee,” Bello said.

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