The Right to Disconnect for UK Workers: What Could This Mean for Employers?

May 14, 2024

By Rachel Ford-Evans

If it wins the General Election, Labour is proposing to introduce a “right to disconnect” for workers in the UK. This will create a new challenge for employers in terms of balancing the rights of their workforce against their business needs. Our employment law experts offer their advice regarding the anticipated changes.


What is the Right to Disconnect?

The right to disconnect, already in place in several countries in the EU and Australia, gives employees a right to not answer any form of work-related contact which falls outside of their working hours, where such refusal is reasonable.

Whether a refusal is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of the contact, including its nature, its urgency and the employee’s personal circumstances.

Will the Right to Disconnect be brought into the UK and when?

If Labour wins a majority in the general election likely to take place in the autumn, the party has said that it will introduce the policy to Parliament within 100 days of taking office. This could mean that the right to disconnect could be brought into UK law as early as 2025.

What does this mean for employers?

If the right to disconnect is introduced in the UK, employers will face legal consequences if they do not comply.

Labour has suggested bringing in not only a right for workers to disconnect from work outside of their working hours (including those who work from home), but also a right not to be contacted by their employers at all out of hours. This would potentially go further than the laws already in place in some countries.

However, we anticipate that employers will be able to put policies in place which would retain a duty for employees to respond to contact where it’s reasonable to do so. Otherwise, employers will risk allowing their employees to ignore contact in all circumstances – even where it is an urgent matter.

What should employers do now?

Employers should keep a close eye on the potential legal changes which may be afoot if Labour wins a majority in the general election, as Labour has also committed to making other significant changes to employment law in its first 100 days in office. As well as this, there are several changes which the UK Government is already bringing into law in 2024. To be ready for these changes, employers should:

  1. Review your contracts of employment to ensure working hours are clearly noted and state when they might be variable.
  2. Diarise regular reviews of your HR policies and procedures to ensure they’re up-to-date with employment law, and keep appropriate records of your reviews.
  3. If and when the changes are introduced into UK law, draft a new policy to address the right to disconnect and consider obtaining HR support if disputes arise.
  4. As always, maintain open and transparent communication with employees regarding their rights and your expectations.
  5. Educate employees on the scope of the right.
  6. Provide training to managers on your policies and procedures and how to manage their teams’ working hours.

Employers should aim to find the appropriate balance between their employees’ rights and the needs of their business. Consider taking legal advice if you are uncertain of how to strike this balance.

If you require advice or assistance on these anticipated changes or any HR support from our experts, contact Rachel Ford-Evans on or 029 2082 9100 for a free initial chat to see how we can help you.

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