The case for a work-free Sunday
The Article 2 of the revised European Social Charter and the Article 31 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU state that every worker has the right to just conditions of work, which respect his or her health, safety and dignity, as well as the right to limitation of maximum working time, to daily and weekly rest periods and to an annual period of paid leave.
In its Resolution of 21 January 2021 on the right to disconnect (2019/2181(INL)), the European Parliament highlighted that “constant connectivity combined with high job demands and the rising expectation that workers are reachable at any time can negatively affect workers’ fundamental rights, their work-life balance, and their physical and mental health and well-being”. It called on the Commission to “include the right to disconnect in its New Occupational Safety and Health Strategy” and to propose an act on the right to disconnect, to establish minimum requirements for remote working and clarify working conditions, hours and rest periods.
The right to disconnect is particularly crucial during the weekly period of rest of workers, on the weekend and on Sunday. In addition to be essential for their mental and physical health, it enables them to engage in volunteer, cultural, sport or faith related activities and thus to create social ties. This day of rest needs to be synchronized, as it is a time of social gathering, for families and citizens to spend time together. Overall, the Sunday rest not only benefits the workers’ well-being and the social cohesion within communities, but also supports the global competitiveness of European businesses.
This is why the European Sunday Alliance advocates for the establishment of a European weekly common day of rest for workers, by tradition on Sunday, as enshrined in Art. 2 of the European Social Charter.
Our commitment for a work-free Sunday and decent working hours
Working condition at risk
Empirical studies prove that non-standard working hours cause a de-synchronisation of the social rhythms, which has a serious negative effect on the health and safety of workers.
Unsustainable working time patterns (unpredictable on-call duties, broken hours, shift work, unsocial working hours such as night- and weekend work) can lead to increased stress and illnesses, as well as absenteeism related to strong feelings of a lack of control and influence on one’s work and life.
People usually work on Sundays or at irregular hours out of financial necessity rather than by choice.
Unsustainable working time patterns, especially when they do not allow for enough working hours, are a main source of the growing phenomenon of the “working poor” in Europe.
Work and Family Life Reconciliation
On Sundays, parents and children are able to spend time with each other. Schools are closed on this day. According to the EU Directive on the Protection of Young People at Work, Sunday is already the acknowledged weekly rest day for children and adolescents in the EU. Likewise, extensive or irregular working time arrangements make it difficult to impossible for workers to enjoy a proper family life and to reconcile work with duties towards children and other dependents.
Work-free Sundays traditionally support the independence of persons from a purely economic-driven lifestyle. Sundays are the reference for the time organisation of state and society.
Notwithstanding the need to provide essential services of general public interest such as emergency, police and health services, a common weekly day of rest creates the necessary framework with regard to the collective rhythm of time in all the Member States of the EU. It serves to strengthen social cohesion in our societies.
Only a well-protected common work-free day per week enables citizens to enjoy full participation in cultural, sports, social and religious life, to seek cultural enrichment and spiritual well-being and to engage in volunteer work and association activities. Without this day, all these forms of social interaction and pastime would be endangered.