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NCP MP Supriya Sule introduces Right to Disconnect Bill giving employees the right to refuse official calls after office hours, experts say not viable

This Bill which was introduced by the NCP leader on December 28 last year, seeks to allow employees to refuse work-related calls and emails beyond office hours and on holidays

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OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Supriya Sule representing Baramati constituency in Maharashtra introduced a private member bill- Right to Disconnect Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha’s ongoing winter session.

This Bill which was introduced by the NCP leader on December 28 last year, seeks to allow employees to refuse work-related calls and emails beyond office hours and on holidays.

Sule who is a Member of Parliament said the Right to Disconnect Bill seeks to “confer the right on every employee to disconnect from work-related telephone calls and emails beyond work hours and on holidays and right to refuse to answer calls and emails outside work hours”.

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The manifesto of the Congress-NCP alliance for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, also promises to bring a ‘Right to Disconnect Bill’.

On December 28, 2018, Sule had taken to Twitter to introduce the Bill: “Introduced Three Private Member Bills in Lok Sabha today — Tuberculosis (Prevention and Eradication) Bill 2018, Right to Disconnect 2018, and Gender Sensitization (Training and Education) Bill 2018.”

Inspired by global modules, the 10-page Right to Disconnect Bill proposes to give employees the right to not respond to a communication from employers outside of office hours, and to mandate companies to detail out-of-work demands “as a way to reduce stress and ease the tension between an employee’s personal and professional life”.

“Studies have found that if an employee is expected to be available round the clock, they tend to exhibit risks of over-work like sleep deprivation, developing stress and being emotionally exhausted,” Sule had told at the time.

“This persistent urge to respond to calls and e-mails (termed as ‘telepressure’), constant checking of e-mails throughout the day, and even on weekends and holidays, is reported to have destroyed the work-life balance of employees,” she said.

How will the Bill work:

  • It will apply to companies with more than 10 employees who will have to set up an Employee Welfare Committee to ensure compliance, which would also include the Ministers of IT, Communication and Labour.
  • The Authority would publish a study regarding the impact of digital tools beyond work hours and yearly reports, and outline a charter of employee-employer negotiations.
  • The bill also says that no disciplinary action can be taken against you if you choose to not respond to your employer after your stipulated work hours.
  • According to the bill, if the employee worked outside of the agreed-upon conditions, he or she would be entitled to overtime compensation.
  • In addition, the government would have to provide employee counselling, digital detox centres, and similar resources “to free an employee from digital distractions and enable him to truly connect with the people around him”.

Is it viable:

Many experts feel that this Bill, which is inspired by global modules is not viable in the Indian work scenario.

  • Human resource officials believe that even if the law is introduced, it will be a huge challenge to implement it.
  • The head of human resources at a Mumbai-based manufacturing firm said they have a strict deadline of 6 pm and do not contact employees across the sector unless there is an emergency. “If this is made a law, any mishaps at the plant cannot be addressed immediately since the concerned person can say that this is beyond their work hours,” he added.
  • A few HR experts also believed that the bill was not viable as it is a reality in India that there is a backlog of work in most companies, due to which disconnecting cannot be possible.
  • Moreover, according to another human resource official working in a mid-sized IT services firm, it is a reality that employees carry work home and nobody is penalised for not answering calls or emails. He further added that considering a lot of Indian IT firms work with global companies where there is a time difference, completely switching off is not practical.
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