First-stage consultation of social partners on fair telework and the right to disconnect*

On 30 April 2024, the Commission launched the first-stage consultation of European social partners to gather their views on the possible direction of EU action on ensuring fair telework and the right to disconnect.

Thanks to digital technologies, many jobs can now be performed remotely. The overall balance is positive, with 60% of workers preferring to work from home for at least part of their week. Workers appreciate the flexibility and autonomy of telework, while companies gain from higher productivity and staff retention. We are now consulting social partners on the opportunities and risks linked to telework. We want to make sure that EU rules promote their autonomy and do not stand in the way of companies and workers who agree to teleworking. We are also seeking their views on whether specific risks require EU action. This includes the risks to workers’ health from an ‘always on call’ culture and the related call from the European Parliament to ensure the right to disconnect.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People

Telework has become widespread, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU Labor Force Survey shows that the overall proportion of people working from home in the EU has almost doubled in the last few years, from 11.1% in 2019 to 20% in 2022. Significant differences exist in this respect across industries, sectors and work profiles, also depending on a job's ‘teleworkability', i.e. to what extent it is feasible to be carried out remotely. Evidence shows those workers who can and do telework clearly appreciate its benefits, notably its flexibility, with over 60% of respondents to a 2022 Eurofound survey confirming they want to work from home at least part of their working time.

Indeed, telework brings many opportunities to the world of work, but also some challenges. While it can allow for flexible work arrangements, it also raises questions on how to ensure workers' rights are respected in a more digitalised work environment. This includes ensuring adequate working conditions and health and safety at work. Notably, the use of digital tools for work and the possibility to work remotely can carry the risk of an ‘always-on' work culture. This has led to calls by different stakeholders for a ‘right to disconnect', to draw clear boundaries between one's professional and private life.

This consultation follows the European Parliament's 2021 resolution calling for a proposal to address these issues. In line with President von der Leyen's Political Guidelines as regards resolutions adopted by the European Parliament under Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Commission is committed to respond with a legislative proposal in full respect of proportionality, subsidiarity and better law-making principles.

In the meantime, European cross-industry social partners launched negotiations to update their 2002 Framework Agreement on telework, supported by the Commission. Following their inconclusive negotiations, they asked the issue to be addressed by the Commission. This is why the Commission is now launching the formal consultation of the EU social partners, as per the rules and procedure for social policy legislation. The consultation will be open until 11 June 2024.


Teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic was a necessity and is now an enduring aspect of modern work life. As we adapt to this change, it’s important to recognise and tackle its profound social implications. The Commission remains committed to respond to the European Parliament’s resolution with legislative proposals, as stated in the Political Guidelines. Following the inconclusive negotiations between social partners, the Commission invites the social partners to express their views on the next steps. A sound policy for teleworking and a right to disconnect are vital for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and for protecting the mental and physical well-being of workers.

Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Righ


Background

The Commission is seeking EU social partners' views in line with Article 154(2) TFEU. It provides for a two-stage consultation of European social partners for proposals in the social policy field based on Article 153 TFEU.

While there is currently no legislation at EU level that specifically regulates telework or the right to disconnect, there are EU laws that also apply to the context of remote working and address certain aspects linked to the right to disconnect. The 2021-2027 Strategic framework on health and safety at work sets out key priorities and actions to ensure the protection of workers' safety and health at work. The Working Time Directive sets rules on daily and weekly rest periods, annual leave, and limits on weekly working hours. The Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions gives workers without a predictable working pattern (e.g. on-demand or zero-hours workers) the right to know in advance when and where work will take place. Finally, the Directive on work-life balance helps parents and caregivers balance work and family life by providing rights related to suitable leaves and flexible working arrangements.

In 2024, Commission services published a study exploring the social, economic and legal context and trends of telework and the right to disconnect, in the context of digitalisation and the future of work, during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study builds on extensive consultations with administrations in all Member States as well as workers, employers, experts and academia. The results of this study will feed into the preparation of EU action on telework and the right to disconnect, alongside the outcome of the social partners' consultation.

For More Information

Consultation document: first-phase consultation of social partners

Study on telework and the right to disconnect

Subscribe to the Commission's e-mail newsletter on employment, social affairs and inclusion

*Updated 30/04/24



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