Scottish officials granted right to switch off outside working hours

Written by Tevye Markson on 15 December 2022 in News
News

New policy stipulates Scottish Government workers should not be asked to answer calls and emails beyond contracted hours

Credit: Aleksandar Cvetanović/Pixabay

Scottish Government civil servants now have the right to not be contacted outside work hours after unions came to an agreement with employers.

The Scottish Government’s 2022-23 Public Sector Pay Policy, published a year ago, introduced the requirement for public sector employers to have "meaningful discussions with staff representatives about the right to disconnect". The right has been introduced in several countries around the world in recent years, with the aim of countering the "always-on" culture created by modern technology such as smartphones and email.

The Council of Scottish Government Unions has now agreed terms with the Scottish Government to implement the right. Officials will be the first workers in the UK to have a legal right not to be contacted out of hours, according to the Prospect union, which has campaigned for several years for the policy to be introduced in the UK.

The Scottish Government guidance for the new policy states that staff "should not be required to routinely perform work outside their own agreed normal working hours" and "should not be penalised or pressured to routinely work outside their normal working hours".

It also states that all staff "have a duty to respect each other's down time, for example by not phoning or expecting responses to emails or other communications outside of an individual's normal agreed working hours".

There are exceptions, such as where contact was expressly agreed with an official in advance, someone is on call, or the situation is extraordinary, such as letting a staff member know an office is shut that day.


Related content


Speaking on behalf of the CSGU, Prospect’s Scottish secretary Richard Hardy said: "The Right to Disconnect policy creates a safety net for staff to ensure nobody is placed under pressure or compelled to work in ways or times that are atypical for them. It has been a longstanding policy objective of the trade unions and the Scottish Government is the first public sector employer in the UK to implement it."

Other countries which have introduced legislation on the right to disconnect include Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Spain and France. The right first emerged in France more than 20 years ago in an employee dispute, where the Supreme Court ruled the worker “is under no obligation either to accept working at home or to bring there his files and working tools”. This was adapated to take into account digital advancements and formalised into law in 2017.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government’s Public Sector Pay Policy for 2022 to 2023 set out the expectation that employers and staff representatives considered introducing a Right to Disconnect. The guidance was agreed earlier this year in conjunction with the civil service trade unions, providing a balance between the opportunities and flexibility offered by technology and our new ways of working to support the need for staff to feel able to switch off from work.”

Andrew Pakes, director of comms and research at Prospect, said: “It’s time the UK government and other employers followed the Scottish Government’s lead – it’s a move that will benefit them in the long run as well as being the right thing to do for workers.”

The Cabinet Office was asked for its view on the suggestion, but had not responded at the time of publication.

 

About the author

Tevye Markson is a reporter at PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @TevyeMarkson.

Share this page

Tags

Categories

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM READERS

Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

Braverman floats criminalisation of ‘highly encrypted devices’
25 January 2023

Government consults on proposals to create new offences to clamp down on technologies it believes are enabling serious crime

Government must earn public trust that AI is being used safely and responsibly
5 January 2023

Leaders from two of government’s core digital and data units – the CDDO and CDEI – introduce new guidelines intended to promote transparency in the public sector’s use of algorithms

Common complaints – why the ICO is considering revamping FOI casework
7 December 2022

A ‘perfect storm’ of factors helped create a significant backlog of information-access complaints – but the data watchdog has a plan to improve. PublicTechnology takes a closer look.

Consultancy signed to £6.5m deal to advise on eight-department shared-services plan
27 January 2023

The Matrix programme – which includes Treasury, Cabinet Office and DHSC – begins engaging with potential suppliers