On Tuesday 1st of June, the European Sunday Alliance organized a webinar on “The right to disconnect and the need for a European weekly common day of rest”. The webinar followed-up from the Alliance’s recent activities on the Right to Disconnect and aimed to raise awareness on the need to establish at the EU level a weekly common day of rest for all EU citizens. Key EU stakeholders spoke during the event, including MEP Dennis Radtke (EPP, Germany), Sponsor of the European Sunday Alliance, MEP Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, Malta), Rapporteur of the European Parliament’s recent Resolution on “the right to disconnect”, MEP Miriam Lexmann (EPP, Slovakia), Member of the European Parliament Intergroup on family-work balance, MEP Patrizia Toia (S&D, Italy), Co-Chair of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Social Economy, and Max Uebe, Head of Unit ‘Employment Strategy’ at the European Commission, in charge of the dossier of the right to disconnect at the European Commission.
The event, moderated by Hendrik Meerkamp from the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI), was attended by over 90 participants. The background to the event was parliamentary resolution with recommendations to the Commission on the right to disconnect from January 2021.
The speakers agreed on the necessity to introduce a right to disconnect in times of increasing blurring of boundaries in order to avoid « new forms of slavery ». At the same time, some MEPs advocated for the general desirability of the introduction of measures prescribing a day of synchronised free time from work in the European Union.
Indeed, speakers generally agreed that a provision on a day of synchronised free time from work would represent an opportunity to make a positive statement about the world we want to live in, a world in which citizens, families, communities have space to thrive together. Participants, through their questions, also highlighted the economic desirability of synchronised free time, stressing that many workers appear have lower stress levels, are generally happier, and are able to recover better during common time off with families and friends and communities so that, in the long-run, they are performing better at work and less often ill or absent. To validate this high plausibility in scientific terms, participants called on the EU institutions to commission research exploring to what extent workers may have lower stress levels and able to recover better during common time off with families and friends and communities, as opposed to recovering during lone time.
In spite of agreeing on the possible political consensus on this initiative, the speakers shared different opinions about what measure would represent the best option for introducing such a prescription. Some of them agreed with the alliance’s proposal, i.e. that such a prescription may be included in a possible new directive on the right to disconnect. Other speakers, instead, stated that they would rather include it in a social partners’ agreement or in a revision of the working time directive.
The European Sunday Alliance was pleased to see support among policy makers about the necessity to introduce a right to disconnect and the desirability and benefits of synchronised time of rest and will continue to work with them to find the suitable regulatory measures to make it a reality for workers across Europe.
It is also gratifying that not only Parliament and the Commission are dealing with the issue – as the event showed. Even the Council has announced to become active: still under the Portuguese Council Presidency, which is striving for recognisable priorities in the social area, the Council adopted conclusions on telework on 14 June 2021.