Work Life Balance and the right to Disconnect

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2024 National Women's Conference
13 October 2023

There have been significant changes to working patterns and practices that have happened since the pandemic, including a large rise in remote and hybrid working. Greater flexibility should be welcomed where this works for staff. Some disabled women and women with caring responsibilities may find more home working is a useful adjustment to give them more control over all aspects of their lives.

However, working from home and flexibility can also present problems for staff, by blurring the line between work time and personal time. Being expected to be permanently available can have a particular impact on workers’ mental health and stress levels. Badly considered and implemented moves to home working can also put women at more risk if home is not a safe place to be.

Conference believes that flexible, hybrid and remote working policies need to be actively negotiated and agreed by trade unions. The voices of women must be heard when trade unions talk about work/life balance, as they are more likely to have caring responsibilities which can be affected by new working arrangements.

This needs to include action on the right not to engage in email, telephone and other work-related contact outside of paid working hours. Whilst some countries have enshrined The Right to Disconnect in law, unions should be including this in the bargaining agenda. Right to Disconnect policies can have a positive impact on women workers and those with caring responsibilities, who benefit from a clearly defined separation between working and personal time.

Conference calls on the Nation Women’s Committee to work with the other national Self Organised Committees through the Equalities Liaison Committee to promote the inclusion of properly supported work/life balance, including the right to disconnect in Flexible working policies.