Right to Disconnect Policy

Paul Hughes
Paul Hughes
  • Updated


Right to Disconnect Policy

Policy: Right to Disconnect            Version Number:1         Review Date: July 2024

Date: 22/06/22                                Status: Active                 Author/s: HR


1. Introduction

2. Legislative Basis

3. Role of the College, Managers, and Employees

4. Working Hours

5. Communications

6. Meetings

7. Wellbeing

8. Reporting concerns

1. Introduction

The College recognises that every employee is entitled to switch off outside of normal working hours and enjoy their free time away from work without being disturbed. There may be occasions where contact occurs, including for example where business and operational reasons require contact outside of normal working hours and depending on the nature of an employee’s role. This however should be rare and not the norm.

The health, safety, and well-being of our employees are of the utmost importance to us NCI and we encourage and support you to prioritise your wellbeing. Disconnecting from work and work devices is vital for your well-being, and to help you achieve a healthy and sustainable work-life balance.

To encourage and support our employees in balancing their working and personal lives, whether they work standard hours in the workplace, work remotely or flexibly, or work shifts we have developed a Right to Disconnect policy, which includes best practice guidance around working hours, the use of technology and more.

2. Legislative Basis

Section 20(2) of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 provides, at the request of the Minister, the preparation of draft codes of practice by the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission) for submission to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment.

The Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Disconnect sets out guidelines and best practices for employers and employees.  The code of practice was agreed upon through public consultation. The thirty-seven submissions received were fully considered in the development of the Code. In finalising the Code, the WRC engaged with representatives of employers and employees including IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) and ICTU (Irish Congress for Trade Unions). This code of practice underpins NCI’s Right to Disconnect Policy.

Other legislation relevant to this policy includes:

Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997

This act does not explicitly refer to a “right to disconnect” but it does state that employers cannot permit employees to work more than a maximum of 48 hours in any one week, except in very limited circumstances. It also states that employers must keep records of hours worked and ensure that staff receive rest breaks each day as well as rest days (e.g. weekend days or other assigned days off).

The Safety and Welfare at Work Act, 2005

This act sets out the responsibilities of employers and employees about Health and Safety at work.

The Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994-2014

The purpose of the Act is to implement an EU Directive which requires employers to provide a written statement to employees setting out particulars of the employee’s terms of employment. The Act also repeals sections 9 and 10 of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act, 1973 as those sections are overtaken by the provisions of this Act.

3. Role of the College, Managers, and Employees

All employees have an active role to play in communication management and the reduction of unnecessary business communications outside normal working hours.

The College encourages the ongoing cultivation of a culture where our employees feel they can disconnect from work and work-related devices and this necessitates a joint approach by the College, our managers, and employees.

Some of the respective obligations include:

The role of the College:

  • To provide information to employees on their working time, by the relevant legislation (contract).
  • To ensure a safe workplace, in line with the health and safety legislation.
  • To not penalise an employee for acting in compliance with any relevant provision of the health and safety legislation.

 The role of the employee:

  • To ensure that they manage their own working time and take care to protect their safety, health and welfare, and the health and safety of co-workers, in line with the health and safety legislation and seek support in doing so if necessary.
  • To cooperate fully with any appropriate mechanism utilised by the College to record working time, including when working remotely.
  • To respect the working time of colleagues and other contacts (including periods of leave).

 The role of the manager:

Managers in particular play a central role in the successful implementation of this policy and have a duty to respect their team members’ right to disconnect and should provide a good example for their team.

 4. Working Hours

  • The College’s ‘normal working hours’ are clearly set out in each staff members individual contract of employment. Managers must be aware of these different work patterns and hours pertaining to each staff member reporting to them.
  • There are legitimate reasons where a staff member may be contacted out of hours e.g. a serious data breach where technology needs to be powered down, in the event of a death, where there is something stipulated within the contract of employment whereby contact outside of hours maybe required from time to time.
  • Ensure to block out time in your diary to hold time for your breaks.

5. Communications

We use a range of communication methods in the course of our work. Try and ensure good practice for your own and your colleagues working time in each area.

Electronic & Phone Communications

The College respects your personal time and expects you to disconnect from work e-mails and work communications outside of normal working hours. 

It is acknowledged that the working “norm” for one may be different for another and due to differing/non-standard patterns of work within the College. Some employees may send communications at times that are opportune for themselves, but inopportune for other employees, e.g. late nights/weekends. These should be sent without any intent to disturb the recipient or in expectation of a speedy answer/response during hours of non-attendance.

In that event, bear in mind the following:

  • Try to only check and send e-mails during normal working hours where possible, but we are also mindful of the requirements of those who wish to work in a more flexible manner.
  • The sender should give due consideration to the timing of their communication and potential for disturbance. The recipient should understand that they will not be expected to respond until their working time recommences. If you are sending emails outside the normal hours of the working day, please also consider other people’s working hours:
    • Send the e-mail with a signature disclaimer at the end, e.g. “I have sent this email at a time that is convenient for me. I do not expect you to respond to it outside of your usual working hours.”
    • Consider drafting the email and sending it during normal working hours or using the ‘delay send’ option and set it to a specified time on the next working day
    • Always consider the tone/contents/context of texts and emails and other electronic communications (e.g. instant messaging apps).
  • Please ensure that your out-of-office notifications are properly activated when you are out of the office and that your out-of-office message correctly directs the recipient to the appropriate colleague.
  • Please respect out-of-office notifications when you receive them from others.
  • In the case of an urgent or time-sensitive situation after normal working hours, please consider the need and urgency before sending an email. Consider a phone call as an alternative.
  • Where the monitoring of social media channels or platforms are an integral part of your role then staff maybe required to monitor and update information at any time, particularly in the case of emergency communications e.g. adverse weather, pandemic, IT outages.
  • Please note that work communications through social media channels or platforms are not encouraged and employees should not feel that they must respond to social communications from colleagues outside of their working hours.

 6. Meetings

  • While meetings can be crucial to strengthen connections between individuals and teams, individual teams and managers are encouraged to review the frequency and timing of meetings they hold to ensure optimum use of time and allow colleagues time to work outside of meetings.
  • Avoid scheduling meetings outside of our core hours or during lunch hours, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Respect people's time by only inviting them to meetings where their presence is necessary.
  • Share and adopt best practice for meetings, for example ensure there is a clear agenda with relevant material shared in advance, with actions recorded and shared post meetings.

7. Wellbeing

Employees, including those engaging in flexible working arrangements or remote working, are reminded to switch off from work and work devices outside their normal working hours and while on leave.

Employees are encouraged to familiarise themselves with their break entitlements as set out in their contracts and ensure that they are availing of these. If an employee is unable to avail of their rest break, they should inform their manager.

Employees working remotely are encouraged to take steps to create boundaries between work and personal time.

8. Reporting concerns

Employees will not be reprimanded for failing to answer phone calls, emails, or messages outside of their normal working hours.

If you encounter problems in availing of your right to disconnect, please speak to your manager, a HR colleague or a colleague that you feel comfortable to do so. If you feel that you cannot approach the person directly, then you should approach your manager or another line manager, or a member of the HR Team with the objective of resolving the issue quickly and informally.  If an informal process has not been successful in resolving the concern, then the formal College grievance procedure may be utilised.

These guidelines should be read in conjunction with our other relevant policies e.g. Dignity at Work.

We reserve the right to amend and update this policy over time in line with best practice, learnings and any changes in legislation.

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