Belgian civil servants granted the right to disconnect

Starting 1 February federal civil servants will no longer have to respond when their boss gives them a call after hours.  Only in exceptional cases that could not have been anticipated and when action can’t wait till the following day may bosses give federal civil servants a bell after normal working hours.  The stipulation is contained in a new circular from the civil service minister.

According to minister Petra De Sutter (Flemish green) civil servants have a right to disconnect. The circular also states that civil servants mustn’t suffer any damaging consequences from failing to respond to such calls or failing to read messages after hours.

The right to disconnect or be unavailable is being defined in (secondary) legislation in order to combat excessive work-related stress and burnouts. The minister hopes this dysconnectivity will lead to a positive impact on mental and physical health, greater focus, and higher levels of energy during working hours.

Ms De Sutter is concerned about the mental wellbeing of workers in an age of homeworking when the computer is always on, and all emails arriving are read on your smartphone.

The exact nature of “exceptional circumstances” can now be agreed in consultations with bosses and unions.

Similar legislation is also on the way for the private sector and is being discussed with representatives from both sides of industry! 

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