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What will the ‘right to disconnect’ workplace code mean for you?

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The Government has introduced a new code of practice to bolster the right of employees to switch off from work outside normal working hours.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has presented the move as an effort to strike a better work-life balance, no bad thing in an era of home-working. However, the initiative is but a start down a long road and lawyers say it is open to court challenge.

What’s the problem?

The constant and ever-growing tide of calls, emails and text messages on work devices leaves many workers feeling they are never off duty. The intrusion on private life is all the greater because working from home has become the norm for many.

Varadkar’s solution?

The Tánaiste says the new code will protect the right of every employee to not have to routinely perform work outside normal working hours. Thus workers have the right not to be penalised for refusing to do so. Moreover, the code underpins the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect by not routinely emailing or calling outside work time.

How is it supposed to work?

Employers are being urged to engage with staff or unions on a right-to-disconnect policy that takes account of the needs of the business and its workforce. “It’s not revolutionary,” says barrister Des Ryan, associate law professor at Trinity College Dublin. “But at least it’s an initial step towards recognising the importance of the right to disconnect and the obligation on employers and employees to consider and monitor work-life balance.”

Back to 9-5?

Not so fast. “Does this mean that nobody is ever going to check or send an email after official working hours? Of course not,” Ryan says. “This is not going to be an instant panacea for people concerned about employee burnout because of a failure to switch off. Instead, it’s an important initial step in trying to normalise or bring about a culture in the workplace where consideration is given to the need to disengage from work.”

How big is this really?

The code itself is not legally binding and it won’t be an offence to break it. But it can be used in evidence in legal proceedings so it is a “significant” development, says Ryan. He notes that Supreme Court rulings on workplace bullying are grounded in definitions of bullying first set out in a similar code of practice.

What about dealings with colleagues in the US or China, several time zones away?

If employees in Ireland need to work beyond regular hours with colleagues in distant countries then the policy should reflect that. The policy must recognise that time differences and international travel “may result in colleagues connecting at different times” outside normal hours, says the code published by the Workplace Relations Commission. “This does not mean that the recipient needs to respond in the same time period. Clear guidance around disconnecting and expectations for responding to digital communications globally should be provided to all employees.”

Problem solved?

Far from it, says Richard Grogan, an employment law solicitor based in Dublin. Instead of enhancing workers’ rights, he argues the new code could be used to dilute them.

How can that be?

By law as it stands, an employer can contact staff to work out of hours only because of an accident or threatened accident, or with 24 hours’ notice. “You can’t have an emergency every week,” Grogan says. But the new code says company policies “should allow for occasional legitimate situations” when it is necessary to contact staff outside of normal working hours.

Legitimate reasons per the code are not limited to emergencies?

Exactly. They include: ascertaining availability for rosters; filling in at short notice for a sick colleague; where unforeseeable circumstances arise; where an emergency may arise; and/or where business and operational reasons require contact out of normal working hours. In this respect, says Grogan, the code “flies contrary” to the Organisation of Working Time Act. This is equivalent to saying drivers can occasionally exceed the speed on a stretch of road, he says.

So the code could be destined for the courts?

“It’s going to take a couple of years to get any cases running,” says Grogan.

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Instagrammer captures abandoned Welsh property in series of eerie photographs

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Who would live in a house like this? Instagrammer photographs abandoned Welsh property – complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday, dishes still in the sink and a newspaper dating back to 1956

  • Photographs reveal the rooms have been untouched for decades and house opened bottle of Champagne  
  • Discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales 
  • Kyle said: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory’ 
  • ***Do YOU know who lived in the abandoned house? Contact izzy.nikolic@mailonline.co.uk*** 

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An abandoned Welsh house has been captured in a series of eerie photographs complete with a bottle of Champagne for ‘Grandad’s’ 90th birthday and dishes still in the sink.  

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx.’  

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. 

A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up and dishes still in the sink.

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: 'Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can't be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx'

Pictured: A piano can also be seen with sheet music still in place along with clothes hanging up

Photographs reveal rooms that have been untouched for decades and reveal a bottle of bubbly with a sticker which reads: ‘Happy 90th Birthday. Sorry I can’t be there to drink this with you! Lots of love James xxx’

The property has been dubbed 'Granddad's abandoned house' after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property

The property has been dubbed ‘Granddad’s abandoned house’ after it was discovered tucked away in the woods. Pictured: The exterior of the property 

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex (pictured) while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales

Random debris including a broken bicycle, piping, empty tins and folding tables and chairs were left strewn throughout the house

Mr Urbex said: 'I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn't too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open'

Mr Urbex said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open’

The discovery was made by Instagrammer Kyle Urbex while he was exploring the countryside in Flintshire, North Wales.

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home.’

He said: ‘I visited the property just over four weeks ago and getting to the actual location wasn’t too bad, just a walk up a small hill and the door was wide open.

‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many.

‘The porch area had been trashed, however the seating still remained intact and of course the champagne bottle for his 90th birthday still left on the fireplace.

He added: 'Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many'

Dishes are left undone in the sink in the kitchen

He added: ‘Once inside I instantly saw the whole location was eerie because it was a house full to the brim of memories, ranging from clothes in the bedroom to old decaying pianos which once may have entertained many’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house. He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was’

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone's 'dream family home'

Kyle also spotted a newspaper dating back to 1956 in what he believes was once someone’s ‘dream family home’

Mr Urbex added: 'Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind'

Mr Urbex added: ‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind’

‘I found it quite sad really given all the memories just left to be forgotten about. As well as the house there was a caravan hidden at the back in all the overgrowth which had more memories inside, old books and so on.

‘I managed to uncover an old bike in the shed which looked like it had been there quite a while.

‘Alongside all of these findings I came across a newspaper dated from November 3 1956.’

Kyle says he has now been left wondering about the story behind the house.

He added: ‘While the place appears to have been ransacked by vandals, clothes still hang in wardrobes; one of the few signs of the home it once was.

‘Overall the whole exploration just left me wondering the whole backstory and how somebody could just leave so much memories and cherished possessions behind.’

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Foley to bring school reopening plan to Cabinet on Tuesday

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Minister for Education Norma Foley says she has every confidence schools will reopen fully from late August and early September.

Ms Foley said there was ongoing engagement between her department and public health officials on the matter but all schools were set to reopen.

Strong mitigation measures would be in place in schools to ensure that they would continue to be controlled environments, she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Monday.

Covid-19 infection rates among children were at their highest when children were not at school and public health experts had pointed out “on a consistent basis to schools being a very significantly controlled environment”.

The safe operation of the Leaving Certificate exams and enhanced summer camps indicated that the safe operation of education could be maintained, she said.

A plan would be put in place to allow schools to “draw down” CO2 monitors and the Minister said she was confident there would be enough monitors for all schools by the start of the new school year.

In relation to Covid-19 vaccines for children, Ms Foley said the “expertise” lay with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) from which her department would take guidance.

“I have received confirmation that the 16 to 18-year-old cohort should be in a position for online registration in the coming days, and I have been advised that the 15-year-olds cohort are still being considered by NIAC and there has been no definitive timeline given,” she added.

Ms Foley will bring a plan to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining enhanced public information campaigns, the outcome of antigen testing pilots, and the purchase of C02 monitors to assist in ventilating classrooms.

Capacity limits on school transport services will also remain in place.

Government sources were adamant on Sunday that second-level education would resume in the autumn, despite concerns among public-health officials that the wave could grow following the reopening of indoor dining today, before peaking in September.

“Schools will reopen,” a senior Coalition source said.

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Over 40 complaints made about ‘unsuitable’ books on English curriculum

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Some books being studied by Junior Cert and Leaving Cert English students feature “disturbing and sick content” and material that is “clearly unsuitable for minors”, complainants have told the Department of Education.

The department has received more than 40 complaints on the issue in recent months, with one email to Minister Norma Foley describing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as “nothing but sadistic, upsetting and of no moral learning or value to students”.

The acclaimed dystopian novel is based in a patriarchal totalitarian state where women, or handmaids, are forced to produce children for commanders.

One “concerned parent” said they were “perturbed” that their teenager was studying the novel Room by Irish author Emma Donoghue.

‘Questionable’

They said many of the topics in the book were “questionable” and that greater consideration should have been given before the book was “forced upon sensitive people in this day and age”. The Booker-shortlisted story is told from the perspective of a young boy held captive in a small room with his mother.

The emails, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, were from parents, one of whom said they were “appealing to and begging” the department to change the curriculum.

One parent expressed “shock and concern” about the prescribed reading lists, citing a perceived “lack of vigilance regarding the age appropriateness” of some books. “The material is offensive, abhorrent and clearly unsuitable for minors,” they said.

The curriculum could “only be described as the sexualisation and desensitising of our children… there needs to be an investigation into this whole sordid affair”, another complaint said.

‘Enslaving’

One person said the book list was “enslaving” students to “abominable ungodly content”, while another sarcastically suggested there was “nothing to stop” Fifty Shades of Grey, the bestselling explicit erotic romance novel, being added.

Some emails were directed towards Ms Foley personally, and called for her to be fired and “held directly responsible”. The department’s response stated that the curriculum at all levels was considered to be for all learners “regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic background, gender or orientation”.

It said it was important that each book was viewed “in its entirety rather than being reduced to particular sections which may be especially controversial”, and that the texts had “strong literary pedigrees” and featured on curricula internationally.

There were also several emails sent to the department in defence of the curriculum, predominantly from students.

The text-list working groups for each subject, convened by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, are comprised of teachers, third-level lecturers, staff from relevant support agencies and experts in children’s and young adult literature. The curriculum did not change this year though the Minister said it would be reviewed in the coming months.


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