Ireland publishes code of practice on right to disconnect

Out-Law News | 07 Apr 2021 | 10:04 am | 2 min. read

Ireland’s Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has published a code of practice on the right to disconnect, following consultation last year.

The code of practice (16 page / 527KB PDF) sets out guidance for employees and employers about employee disengagement outside normal working hours. It applies to all types of employment, whether an individual is working remotely, in a fixed location, at home or is mobile.

The code introduces three main elements of the right to disconnect: the right of an employee to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours; the right to not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours, and a duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect.

The code complements and supports employers’ and employees’ rights and obligations which exist under current employment legislation in Ireland. It recognises that a joint approach is required in order to create a culture in which employees feel that they can disconnect from work and work-related devices.

The code also sets out best practice guidance on a right to disconnect policy and how employees and employers should manage the right to disconnect and how to raise concerns.

Failure to follow the code will not be an offence, although Irish employment legislation provides that in any proceedings before a court or the WRC, a code of practice will be admissible in evidence. Any provision of the code which appears to be relevant to any question arising in the proceedings will be taken into account in determining that question.

Employment law expert Ciara Ruane of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “In light of this code and the proposed directive from the European Parliament on the right to disconnect, ensuring employees can switch off will be a key item agenda now for many employers. Employers will need to engage with employees to understand what hurdles there are to disconnecting.”

Pinsent Masons employment law expert Jason McMenamin said: “Employers should be aware that the new code of practice applies to all employments in Ireland, irrespective of whether their employees work in the office, at home or are mobile. Employers should review their current policies in light of the new code of practice and ensure they are compliant.”

Separately, Ireland’s new paid parental leave entitlements, which extend parent’s leave and Parent’s Benefit payments from two to five weeks, are now effective under the Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021. The legislation also extends the timeframe in which a parent can now take parent’s leave to two years from the birth or adoption of the child.

The changes will apply retrospectively, giving parents who have already taken two weeks’ parent’s leave prior to the enactment of the 2021 Act an entitlement to an extra three weeks’ leave. “Employers should note that these changes apply retrospectively and they should update their current leave policies accordingly,” said McMenamin.