Bosses would be banned from contacting their staff by phone, WhatsApp or email under a Labor government, according to plans expected in the party’s general election manifesto.
The proposal by deputy leader Angela Rayner, who is also shadow secretary of state for the future of work, comes as many workers are inundated with messages during their evenings, weekends and holidays.
She told the Financial Times that “constant emails and calls outside of work should not be the norm and damage the work-life balance for many people”.
Renner acknowledged that there will be times where contact is needed, such as with workers who are on call or who are working overtime.
“We will look at how to implement this in practice, learning from countries where it has been successfully introduced,” she said.
The so-called “right to switch off” would echo legislation in France, where since 2017 all staff have had the right to disconnect from phones and laptops outside of working hours.
In 2018, a worker at the French branch of British pest control company Rentokil received €60,000 after the company failed to respect his right to disconnect. Other countries, including Italy, Spain and Portugal, have followed France’s example.
Belgium last month began requiring all employers with more than 20 staff to lodge a company policy, while the Scottish Government has agreed a similar arrangement with unions representing civil servants.
However, the law will not necessarily help those who feel pressured to log in outside of business hours to meet the deadline. John Boyes, an economist at the CIPD body for HR professionals, said that employees expected to work longer hours were “more privileged” and higher skilled, for whom it was “one of the trade-offs when they make it. They take those more senior positions.” is.”
Labour’s policies have come under increasing scrutiny since the party took the lead in opinion polls ahead of next year’s expected general election. These policies are part of a broader package of employment reforms, known as the “New Deal for Working People”, which gives workers more rights.
One of the biggest changes will be a ban on controversial “zero-hours contracts” while also outlawing the practice of “fire and rehire”, where companies make workers redundant and then re-engage them on worse terms and conditions.
Other proposals include offering flexible working where there is no reason why work cannot be done with different hours or remotely.
The Conservative Party promised to make the “default” function flexible in its 2019 manifesto, but has shelved the proposal. Instead, it is using secondary legislation to give workers the “right to request” flexible working.
The Institute of Directors said it welcomed the government’s plan to give workers the “right to request” flexible working, but admitted that implementing flexible working would be “problematic” for some employers.
Labor will also provide sick pay and holiday rights from the first day of employment and protect workers against unfair dismissal. Currently, employees can usually only challenge a dismissal if they have been with their employer for two years and are not eligible for the lowest earning statutory sick pay.
Labor would also give workers the right to negotiate a “fair wage agreement” through regional collective bargaining. This is a crucial demand from unions, although similar arrangements recently introduced in Australia and New Zealand have been opposed by business groups.
The new deal for working people is part of a draft manifesto, most of which will be signed off by the party’s “National Policy Forum” in the summer.