The Right to Disconnect

The Right to Disconnect Code of Practice came into force on April 1st of this year, but what does it mean for employers and employees?

How often have you received an email or call from a colleague or manager at an inappropriate time? It can create pressure to reply or do some work associated with that email or call in your free time, something that can severely impact work-life balance.

The Work Relation Commission’s (WRC) Code of Practice around the Right to Disconnect was designed to stop that.  It was created in consultation with business groups and unions such as Ibec and ICTU and came into force on April 1st 2021. 

What is the Right to Disconnect?

The Right to Disconnect refers to an employee’s right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails, telephone calls or other messages, outside normal working hours.

In brief, the Right to Disconnect has three main elements:

  1. The right of an employee to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours.

  2. The right to not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours.

  3. The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).


In short, it states that employees have a right to disconnect from any work-related activities outside of normal working hours. The word routinely is important though as it allows for some flexibility such as a work-related emergency. 

Employer Obligations

Under the code, employers should be;

  • Providing detailed information to employees on their working time, in accordance with the Terms of Employment Information Act, 1994 – 2014.

  • Ensuring that employees are informed of what their normal working hours are reasonably expected to be under the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018.

  • Ensuring that employees take rest periods.

  • Ensuring a safe workplace, including reviewing their risk assessment and, where necessary their safety statement.

  • Not penalising an employee for acting in compliance with any relevant provision or performing any duty or exercising any right.

Employers should note that this is a code of practice rather than legislation. This means that an employer that fails to follow this code isn’t committing a legal offence. However, if a complaint is made by the employee to the WRC, the code or failure to follow the code can be admissible as evidence. 


Employee Obligations

Under the code, employees should be;

  • Ensuring that they manage their own working time and to take reasonable care to protect their safety, health and welfare and the health and safety of co-workers.

  • Cooperating fully with any appropriate mechanism utilised by an employer to record working time including when working remotely.

  • Being mindful of their colleagues’, customers’/clients’ and all other people’s right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).

  • Notifying the employer in writing of any statutory rest period or break to which they are entitled to and were not able to avail of on a particular occasion and the reason for not availing of such rest period or break.

  • Being conscious of their work pattern and aware of their work-related wellbeing and taking remedial action if necessary.


Key Takeaways for Employers and Employees

The most important thing when it comes to the Right to Disconnect is communication. Employers should be communicating the hours expected from employees while also ensuring that these expectations aren’t unreasonable or occurring regularly outside normal working hours.

For employees, knowing your rights under the relevant legislation is key. You can find more information on the Work Relations Commission website.

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