26 Jun 2022

Local councillor calls on government to improve people's rights to disconnect after work

Fianna Fáil cllr John Sheridan

Fianna Fáil cllr John Sheridan

A local councillor has called on the government to instruct workplaces to stop using Covid Whatsapp groups as restrictions around office work are set to be eased later this month.

Fianna Fáil’s John Sheridan has written to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar about the issue of workplace boundaries and people’s right to disconnect from work after they finish for the day or weekend.

Cllr Sheridan wrote to the Tánaiste, who has responsibility for businesses as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to replace temporary communication measures like Whatsapp groups with better, permanent communication systems.

“At the start of the pandemic, many employers and employees set up WhatsApp groups for efficiency for everyone being at home. Obviously, at the time it was a very practical solution to a new problem of everyone working remotely,” said Cllr Sheridan.

“I believe as Covid restrictions wind down, Government should be saying to employers to end temporary measures like WhatsApp groups and replace them with a more permanent form of contact that isn't so intrusive on an employees' personal devices. 

“By giving this direction, it would also equally empower employees to raise it an issue with employers or their Unions under the right to switch off post-Covid." 

The “Right to Disconnect” code of practice was published earlier this year by the Tánaiste’s department, but Cllr Sheridan says more needs to be done.

“I have been speaking to some constituents who are concerned about their personal time being infringed by receiving unnecessary messages about both work matters and non-work related matters. In most cases this is on employee's personal phones. 

“I think employers, and indeed employees, need to seek to disband WhatsApp groups which did serve a purpose but in some cases result in work place boundaries being crossed. 

“Others have spoken of the frustration of receiving notification of a message into a work WhatsApp group on weekend night only to see it's another meme doing the rounds.” 

Cllr Sheridan said that the guidelines do have details about personal down time from work, but he believes they should be more detailed and meaningful.

“Work/Life balance and mental health is very important, we all have a duty to understand and respect that.”

He also called for more funding for eHubs in villages across Louth to allow people to work remotely in more rural areas as Ireland exits the pandemic and adapts to blended working.

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