In November of last year, we shared a story about how Portugal has made it illegal for employers to contact workers outside of working hours in an effort to encourage a healthier work-life balance. Now, Belgium’s Minister of Civil Service Petra De Sutter has introduced a similar law for the country called the “right to disconnect.”
This law, which will be implemented from the 1st of February, outlines the right for federal civil servants to not answer phone calls from their employers after normal working hours—in other words, to be unreachable.
The new law is meant to combat “excessive work stress and burn-out,” and means that bosses should not contact their employers after working hours unless “in the event of exceptional and unforeseen circumstances requiring action that cannot wait until the next working period.” De Sutter emphasizes that federal servants “should not be disadvantaged by not answering the phone or reading work-related messages outside normal working hours.”
She also adds that disconnecting from work “is linked to positive well-being outcomes such as better focus, better recuperation, and a more sustainable energy level.” This becomes even more relevant as more people take on remote work which more easily encroaches on domestic life and free time.
“The computer stays on, you keep reading the e-mails you receive on your smartphone… To better protect people against this, we now give them the legal right to disconnect,” she declares.