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Support for introducing ‘right to disconnect’ law is growing

New research by Ipsos reveals the majority of UK adults aged 16-75 are in favour of introducing a law giving employees the right to ignore work-related communications, such as emails, texts and instant messages, outside of their official working/on-call hours.

Rsearch by Ipsos reveals the majority of UK adults aged 16-75 are in favour of introducing a law giving employees the right to ignore work-related communications, such as emails, texts and instant messages, outside of their official working/on-call hours. 60% would support the Government introducing such a law, including 34% who would strongly support it. Only 1 in 10 (11%) indicated they would be against introduction of such a law.

Currently, over two-thirds of UK workers say they participate in work-related communications outside of their working hours (67%); 43% check work-related communications and 40% reply to them. A third (34%) proactively send work-related communications. Only 3 in 10 (30%) do not communicate with work outside of their official working hours.

82% of those earning upwards of £55,000 a year are more likely to be checking, replying to and sending work-related communications outside of working hours, replicated by 65% of workers earning under £55,000.

More than half of UK adults say it is not acceptable for employers to expect their employees to participate in work-related communications outside of official working or on-call hours.

Where the attitudes are notably different are amongst younger generations, who tend to be most likely to believe such expectations are acceptable. 56% of 16-34 year olds believe it is acceptable for employers to expect their employees to check work-related communications out of hours, compared with 34% of 35-75 year olds.

Graduates were also found to be more in favour than non-graduates, and 16–24-year-olds are also less strongly in support of a law being introduced, indicative again of the apparent acceptance of out-of-hours communication amongst younger workers, with many beginning to establish their careers virtually.

Opinion is split as to whether priority should be given to the right to disconnect or flexible working. Almost a third (32%) say it is more important to give employees the right to disconnect than it is to give them more flexibility around working hours, withalmost a quarter (24%) believing flexibility over hours to be more important. However, 37% indicated both factors are equally important, emphasising why businesses cannot afford to fall short when it comes to establishing a positive workplace culture.

Kelly Beaver, Chief Executive UK and Ireland, Ipsos, says: “The pandemic has had a huge impact on our working patterns, providing businesses and employees an opportunity to re-evaluate the way we work.  For many, this has resulted in increased flexibility, but there is also the blurring of lines between work and homelife.

“There is clearly support for legislation that protects the work-life balance, but will something as prescriptive as legislation actually impinge on the flexibility many have embraced over the last two years? Businesses should work with their employees to provide an environment that offers flexibility and a healthy work-life balance, so that we can all benefit from this new way of working.”

Ipsos in the UK interviewed a representative sample of 1,050 British adults aged 16-75 (including 698 who are in work). Interviews were conducted using its online omnibus between 4-5 February 2022. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

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