Right to disconnect at workplace: An Indian perspective

Technology has revolutionized the way corporations do business and conduct themselves. The use of technology has become the new normal which has manifested dramatic changes in the way employees work now. While many employees have begun to work from home as a result of the Covid-19, however the distinction between the hours when they are […]

Technology has revolutionized the way corporations do business and conduct themselves. The use of technology has become the new normal which has manifested dramatic changes in the way employees work now. While many employees have begun to work from home as a result of the Covid-19, however the distinction between the hours when they are working and when they are not, have predominantly blurred.

Pandemic has accelerated a dynamic shift in the employee’sefficiency – in the sense that now in select companies, they have an option to select their mode of working viz. either entirely work from home or from the office itself or to adopt ahybrid of the two. An employee’s spare time, which was once used to converse with their loved ones has now become a shackle that ties them to their work. As a result, many aspects of professional lives have infiltrated personal lives. The always-on work culture and poorly regulated flexible working arrangements, generated by extensive use of electronic communication can have significant negative consequences on employee’s and their families’ health and well-being.


In order to create a corporate feel inside the employee’s home, corporations are creating a virtual office environment.Companies are taking an active step in implementing several tools for easy communication or task handing by either utilizing the available applications like ‘Slack’ or ‘Proofhub’or developing their own unique custom-made applications. Regardless of the existing benefits, remote working has significantly contributed to an increase in an employee’s to-do list. Improving the work culture is essential for companiessince research suggests that when an organization’s culture is favourable, employees are less stressed about their jobs. With positive approach from the employers’ side, employees tend to enjoy the working atmosphere and handle their job responsibilities efficiently.

The World Happiness Report (“WHR”) 2022, that ranks 156 countries, has placed India at the 136th place on the index of global happiness. This is lower than India’s rank in 2018 that was at 133rd place. While India’s underperformance may be linked to a variety of variables, there is no hesitation that anemployee’s happiness while they are working is an important factor. All this boils down to one question, how employeescan be, or should be compensated for undertakingassignments outside of their work hours even if it is as basic as answering business-related phone calls or e-mails?

In 2020, the Global Survey conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence brought out the difficulties that employees had to face globally with respect to their work as well as career. According to the Survey, 70% of employees feel trapped in their careers and it also had a bad influence on their personal lives. Whereas 40% of employees claim that working from home has contributed to extra stress and worry in their personal lives. The Report quotes “while our professional and personal lives have always been intertwined, it’s clear that the lines between work and life have blurred even further as more people shift to remote or hybrid working models.”

When we have mountain of problems, we address them one-by-one. So, let’s take an insight into the Right to Disconnect policy as being supported by many employers worldwide. What is it? How does it aim to balance the employee interests while securing no major business loss to the companies? Let’s answer.


All of us require a minimal break from our work for some time in our day. To refresh oneself, there is a need to disconnect yourself from your work so that you may address other personal engagements. However, it won’t be possible to relax when your employer is always reminding you of the upcoming agenda. To relax, one must have a clear mind, which is not always attainable owing to job pressure in vivid industries.

For any individual, home is a place to rest and replenish energy by taking some time away from the day-to-day stress of work life and if they receive work calls or have to respond to emails when at home, the person is certain to be disturbed. The long-standing equilibrium has not been altered despite being a significant cause of depression. Aside from the Global Survey mentioned above, many other studies have equally found that people who have a high imbalance in their work and personal lives are more likely to suffer from anxiety-related disorders than those who have a better life balance. This is in addition to other health issues such as obesity, gastric and heart issues, constant headaches, and eye problems from sitting in one place for long periods of time.

In 2016, the first national survey on mental wellness, conducted by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare presents a more accurate representation of the prevalence of anxiety disorders in India. According to the survey, the total prevalence of anxiety disorders in India is 3.1 percent of the population. The UBS (a Swiss Investment Banking firm) research highlights Mumbai to be one of the busiest cities in the world, with people working an average of 3,314 hours each year, thus being the reason why this city never sleeps. All this is not just related to the right to disconnect, but is a depiction of the inadequate labour laws in India.

Another significant issue of which we hear about on a daily basis, is about the consequences of excessive screen time: people regularly suffer eye dryness and irritation as a result of excessive screen time. It is vital to take a break from technology after continuous staring at a screen, nevertheless, this cannot be done at job that requires entire concentrationespecially while working from home. A timely update is necessary, as is frequent telephonic and electronic connection. This interrupts the personal timetable which might have been assigned to our hobbies or to anything else after office hours.

People can only function at their best when there is a healthy mix between professional and personal life. They are unable of operating to their full potential unless they are given the due hours of personal life daily. It has been discovered that persons who disconnect from work after office hours and spend quality time with friends and family or participating in a sport of their choosing, are better than those who put in extra hours. If a government wants a stronger workforce, it must provide workers with the much-needed distinction by either encouraging strict overworking policies or monthly extra work activities.


The beginning of the right to disconnect can be attributed to a decision in the case Labor Chamber of the Cour de Cassation, October 2, 2001, n°99-42.727, before the Labour Chamber of the French Supreme Court on October 2, 2001. The English Court, through this judgement, emphasised that the employees are under no duty to either accept working at home or to bring his papers or instrument there after the working hours. The same ruling was reiterated by the French Supreme Court in the case of Labor Chamber of the Cour de Cassation, February 17, 2004, n°01-45.889, where the Court held, if an employee is not available on his cell phone outside of business hours, then the conduct of the employee shall not be deemed as a misbehaviour. France was the first country to implement this right by enacting the El Khouri law, later amending Article L.2242-8 of the French labour code to provide for the right to disconnect. In 2017, France passed a new employment law for organisations with more than 50 employees to negotiate the right to disconnect. Several other nations, including Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Spain, havealso enacted similar municipal laws recognising this right, by following France’s lead. The latest in the series, the province of Ontario, approved Bill 27 i.e. Working for Workers Act, 2021, which requires employers with more than 25 employees to have a policy governing the freedom and discretion to disconnect after work hours. Instead of a law establishing the policy, the employer is needed to create an in-house policy stating these privileges.

In 2014, Germany has taken a step ahead by calling for a ‘anti-stress’ law comparable to the ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy in other countries. Further, Mr. Andrea Nahel, Germany’s Employment Minister, published a study in 2017 that revealed some troubling data about how workers tend to retire early due to persistent stress. Germany has been grappling with the subject of how one can decrease work-related stress and aim for a positive working balance for some years.

The Indian Parliament’s winter session of 2018 witnessed the introduction of a Bill that had never been seen before, at least in the Indian workplace. Ms. Supriya Sule, a member of Parliament for the Nationalist Congress Party, submitted a Private Member’s Bill to allow employees to refuse answer any call or emails after work hours and no disciplinary action shall be taken for the same. The Bill moots for no calls or emails after work hours or on weekends, as well as no work-related calls or emails during the holidays. However, passing a law in India, particularly in this digital age where some organizations have permanently transitioned to a work-from-home structure, may not be the most effective answer. Indiandemographics, resources and culture is different from west and hence it won’t be desirable to use legislation to regulate the relationship between employers and employees. The Bill applies to enterprises with 10+ workers, and mandatesformation of an Employee Welfare Committee (“the Authority”) to oversee compliance of the Bill provisions. The Authority shall comprise the Ministers of Information Technology, Communication and Labour.

The Authority, so to be created as per the Bill, is required to publish research on the influence of digital technologies outside of work hours, including yearly reports, and create a format charter for employee-employer agreements.Furthermore, the Government would be required to fund employee counselling, digital detox centres, and other such tools ‘to liberate an employee from digital distractions and allow them to properly interact with the people around.’ In addition to these, non-compliance of the conditions of the Bill would result in a penalty of 1% of total employee salary on the employer.


While the right to disconnect is rational in theory, there are inherent complexities in executing it in a workplace. There may be concerns with employment that need emergency assistance or involve human lives such as those of a medical practitioner. Any right to disconnect must take into account the fact that, in the case of MNCs, workers operate across many temporal and physical zones. It can be argued that turning off oneself completely from work in certain industries isn’t possible. Moreover, if an entity is disconnected, especially in India, it may cause a disruption in the seamless supply chain. This may result in customer or client drop-outs if customer expectations are not met.

One great thing about humankind is – the power to adapt. Individuals have the ability to change work schedules in any circumstances, thus eliminating the need to total disconnect. One argument is that because no one is normally penalised for failing to respond to phone calls or emails after work hours, it is fine to blur the lines a bit. Considering Indian labour law is continually evolving in response to the changing working setup in India, other pressing issues must be addressed before addressing the right to disconnect. On the contrary India can apply a soft approach to envelope the right to disconnect in Indian companies.

Corporate’ priorities in India have evolved from just focusing on earnings to optimising the workplace with the goal of enhancing employee satisfaction. Reduced work hours and increased leisure time have resulted in lower absenteeism as well as enhanced health and productivity. Work time and leave are arranged in such a way that the workflow is maintained. Even in work-obsessed Japan, corporations are going against the grain and challenging the ‘Always-ON’mentality by allowing employees to disengage. Implementing the right to disconnect will involve a realistic evaluation of staff workloads and re-scheduling. There is a need to establish clear operational guidelines. Some firms, such as those in Japan, have established a staggered ‘disconnect structure,’ in which one person takes over the responsibilities of another who has disconnected.

Companies will have to figure out how to control the system if the freedom to disconnect becomes a legal right. Will people be penalised if they call during the disconnect period? Will the legal system intervene? To put the right to disconnect into action, the basics must first be addressed. Even after three years of adoption of right to disconnect, there are still loopholes in the said policy enforcement in France. This subject requires more examination in an era where laws are increasingly reactive, regulatory, and punishing.

Furthermore, the issue remains, can a ‘one size fits all’strategy will work for the diverse industries in which employees work? Some businesses require that they must have their personnel available outside of usual business hours. Furthermore, others worry that mandating employees not to respond to emails after work may merely push them to stay at work longer. Alternatively, it may create pressure on staff to complete work by the end of the day. Also, the question of successful implementation has to be dealt.

It’s time to shift the paradigm — to refocus policymaking language toward the broader satisfaction of both employer and employee. As a result, it is critical to minimize the involvement of strict Government policies and instead opt for a flexible policy regarding the expectations of employees outside of working hours that is unique, adequate and wholesome.

The Indian Parliament’s winter session of 2018 witnessed the introduction of a Bill that had never been seen before, at least in the Indian workplace. Ms. Supriya Sule, a member of Parliament for the Nationalist Congress Party, submitted a Private Member’s Bill to allow employees to refuse answer any call or emails after work hours and no disciplinary action shall be taken for the same.