Everything that you must know about Right to Disconnect Bill

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 09, 2019 17:04 hrs
No calls after office hours!

The Right to Disconnect Bill, introduced by Supriya Sule on December 28 is one that bats for employees. The bill aims at reducing stress and easing tension arising out of attending calls and emails post office hours.

So far, there is no law in India that helps employees cut from out-of-office calls and emails. If approved by policymakers from both the houses, this law could create much necessary work-life balance.

According to Sule, the bill aims to mandate companies to detail out of work demands. The bill forbids employers from disciplinary action on employees outside normal conditions. Moreover, the bill also seeks employees to be paid overtime for working outside of agreed-upon conditions such as time.

The bill which was introduced for the first time on December 28, mandates the formation of a Employee Welfare Authority which will include ministers from the IT, Communication and Labour ministries. The authority will also outline a charter of the employee-employer negotiations, besides publish studies on the impact of digital tools beyond work hours and also annual reports.

For private companies with fewer than 10 employees, the Bill provisions periodic negotiations on specific terms with workers. Companies could create their own charters post discussion with workers and create an Employee Welfare Committee comprising of representatives from the company’s workforce.

In addition, the government would have to provide employee counseling, digital detox centers, and similar resources "to free an employee from digital distractions and enable him to truly connect with the people around him."

According to the bill, non-adherence to the mandate would invite a penalty of one percent of total employee remuneration.

Sule was quoted in the Indian Express as explaining that "telepressure", the urge to constantly respond to emails and calls, had destroyed work-life balance. She also added that there were studies that linked risks from round-the-clock working to sleep deprivation, stress and being emotionally exhausted.

The 10-page Right to Disconnect Bill, a digital copy of which is available with the Parliamentary Bills Information System, refers to studies from institutions such as the World Economic Forum and also with studies on labour productivity and other economic theories. The bill cites the analysis of a 2014 study conducted by Stanford University which found that working fifty hours or more in a week made employees less productive.

The bill also says that workers picking calls or answering emails post 9 PM faced sleep deprivation. Hence, it is a right of every employee to refuse addressing work-related emails or phone calls post a specific time-period.

For those keen to read more about the bill, here is a link to a pdf copy. [The bill available from the website of The Parliament is in Hindi.]

Countries such as France and US too have discussed of laws- the right to disconnect.

Such a provision was introduced by the French Supreme Court, and has been implemented in New York. Germany, too discussed the possibility of a law to mandate work hours.

The bill is yet to be discussed in the Lok Sabha. The odds however are stacked against the bill's discussion. Data reveals that fewer than 5% of private bills are even debated in Lok Sabha. According to research from PRS Legislative published in 2015, the 13th Lok Sabha discussed barely 5% of private bills, The 14th Lok Sabha discussed 3%, while the 16th Lok Sabha discussed only 2.85% of private bills.

According to Parliamentary rules, a private bill has an expectancy of 6 years to be discussed, before lapse.

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