A Private Member’s Bill empowers employees to structure their work-life balance as they see fit
Given the levels of digital connectedness today, it isn’t really surprising that white-collar workers don’t really get off work. But, if NCP MP Supriya Sule has her way in Parliament, this could all be a thing of the past. In a bid to reduce employee stress and prod employers into facilitating a healthy work-life balance for the former, Sule introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha to give employees the right to not respond to communication from employers beyond designated office timings. Termed the Right to Disconnect Bill, it forbids disciplinary action against an employee if she does not reply to her boss’s attempts to contact her outside of the agreed-upon working conditions. If the employee works outside of the established terms, he or she will be entitled to overtime. The Bill also directs employers with more than 10 employees to periodically negotiate specific working terms with each of them, publish and update their own working terms, and set up an Employee Welfare Committee consisting of representatives from the company’s workforce.
Sule cited studies that highlighted the dangers of being overworked and not being able to have any time to unwind. There is a greater chance of these health risks materialising given technology has become so pervasive in our day-to-day lives. To bring down employees’ work-related screen time and help combat digital distractions, the Bill talks about government-provided employee counselling and digital detox centres. In an age where technology has enabled employees to work from anywhere, blurring the boundary between home and office, the Bill promises to empower workers to structure this boundary as they see fit, without being at the risk of any retaliatory action. But, will merely legislating this help? If employees are willing to work after-hours, should the government be coming in the way of such productivity?