The landscape of work has changed in the past two years. There is a greater focus on getting the job done, and less focus on how and when the job gets gets done. While this has had an overall benefit to workplace wellness, there are some issues to be conscious of for employers.
With an increase in flexible working hours, and with many people working from home, there has been an increased tendency to check in on emails and to take and make phone-calls out of hours. Employers must remember that each of these activities is work. It counts towards working time and should be remunerated.
Working-time legislation provides that the working week cannot exceed forty-eight hours on a regular basis. Employees are entitled to a fifteen-minute break every four and half hours and a thirty-minute break every six hours. They are entitled to eleven consecutive hours rest in each twenty-four hours.
The Code of Practice on the right to disconnect was introduced in April 2021, and clarified that employees have rights:
- not to routinely perform work outside their working hours, and
- not to be penalised for refusing to do work outside their normal working hours.
Employees also have a duty to respect their colleagues right to disconnect. Every workplace should foster a culture of ensuring that emails are sent only at appropriate times and that workers log off and leave work at the end of their work day. This behaviour has to begin with the leadership of the organisation.
The Code of Practice and the working time legislation both have a certain degree of flexibility, and there are occasions where employees may properly perform working tasks outside of hours. A problem arises if out-of-hours working becomes routine, and if a worker is averaging more than forty-eight hours per week. Employers need to keep records of working time for each employee, and take immediate action if a pattern of excess working emerges.
The above is provided for information purposes and is not intended as legal advice. If you have questions about working time or any aspect of employment law we, at Fitzsimons Redmond LLP, would be happy to advise you on your next steps. Please contact us on 01-676 3257.
By Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty
Partner at Fitzsimons Redmond LLP