‘Workers must have a right to digitally disconnect’

The Global Commission on the Future of Work calls for new sets of regulations and rights in digital work era

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 22 January 2019
Representative image: Getty Images

A just-released report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work has, for the first time, articulated regulations and protections that workers need in an era of digital work space and system. The International Labour Organization (ILO) initiated the commission headed by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in 2017.

It calls for the sovereignty of time for workers. Transformative technologies and changing work space cultures have put the rights of workers for the minimum work hours into disarray. Global regulations on such labour rights are also difficult to monitor for compliance.

“Information and communication technologies that allow work to take place anywhere, at any time, blur the line between working time and private time and can contribute to an extension of working hours. In a digital age, governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations will need to find new ways to effectively apply nationally defined maximum limits on hours of work, for example by establishing a right to digitally disconnect,” it says.

Bringing into focus the popular work-life balance in our day-to-day life, the report says too many workers are working too long. But they might not be paid for the same. Around 36 per cent of global work force work in excess of the standard 48 hours/week.

“For many of them, working hours can be highly variable and unpredictable, without a guaranteed number of paid working hours or income per week and with little or no say about the timing of their work.”

Workers need greater time sovereignty. The capacity to exercise greater choice and control over their working hours will improve their health and well-being, as well as individual and firm performance, says the report.

“We recommend the adoption of appropriate regulatory measures that provide workers with a guaranteed and predictable minimum number of hours. Other measures should be introduced to compensate for variable hours through premium pay for work that is not guaranteed and waiting time pay for periods when hourly workers are ‘on call’.”

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