Ifac advice for farmers on ‘Right to Disconnect’

Ifac, Ireland’s farming, food and agribusiness specialist professional services firm, is advising Roscommon farmers and SMEs to work together with their employees when developing their Right to Disconnect Policy.

Earlier this year, the Workplace Relations Committee (WRC) published a Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect from work outside of normal working hours. The Code acknowledges that different working arrangements suit different businesses but says that the right to maintain clear boundaries between work and leisure is universal.

Mary McDonagh, Head of Payroll Services at ifac said: “It is important that farm employers and SMEs familiarise themselves with the Code and work together with their employees when developing an appropriate Right to Disconnect policy for their business to ensure it takes account of both business needs and the wellbeing of their workforce”.

While failure to follow the code is not an offence if disputes arise relevant provisions of the code will likely be taken into account by Adjudicators or Chairpersons in WRC or Labour Court cases involving issues such as dismissal, penalisation and/or equality discrimination.

The Right to Disconnect code sets out three key elements of the right to disconnect including the right for employees not to work outside normal hours; the right not to be penalised for refusing to attend work matters outside those hours; and the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect.

The code recommends that employers engage with their employees to develop a Right to Disconnect Policy that accommodates their business needs. The policy needs to take into account relevant health and safety legislation, the statutory obligations of employers and employees, and employees’ terms and conditions of employment.

When developing your policy, it is important to emphasise the expectation that staff disconnect from work outside of their normal working hours and during annual leave. The policy should also allow for occasional legitimate situations where it may be necessary to contact staff outside of normal working hours.

Once you have your policy in place, it should be referenced in your employees’ terms and conditions of employment and read in conjunction with your other employment policies.

A procedure for your employees to raise concerns should be included in your Right to Disconnect policy. Examples of concerns that may arise include being contacted regularly outside of normal work hours, being expected to regularly work through breaks or being penalised for not being available out of normal working hours. Guidance for addressing concerns and resolving workplace issues that may arise is also included in the Code.

A sample Right to Disconnect Policy layout and template clauses is available on the WRC website.