Article: Is the Philippines ready for a ‘right to disconnect’ law?

Economy & Policy

Is the Philippines ready for a ‘right to disconnect’ law?

Can a 'right to disconnect' law balance the needs of employers and employees given the Philippines' unique economic and cultural landscape?
Is the Philippines ready for a ‘right to disconnect’ law?

The right to disconnect, or the legal right for employees to disengage from work-related communications outside of working hours, is gaining momentum globally.

Countries like France and Australia have already enacted legislation to protect workers' well-being and work-life balance.

As the Philippines contemplates a similar law, it's crucial to examine the potential benefits and drawbacks in the context of the country's unique work culture and economic landscape.

The case for a right to disconnect law

Proponents of the right to disconnect argue that it is essential for safeguarding employees’ mental health and fostering a healthier work-life balance.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who filed House Bill No. 9735 in the Philippines, emphasises that “replying to messages or answering calls from employers adds additional stress to employees and destroys their work-life balance.”

Evidence from countries like France, where a similar law has been in place since 2016, suggests that the right to disconnect can indeed improve employee well-being.

A study by the French National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that employees who were able to disconnect from work during their free time reported lower levels of stress and higher job satisfaction.

Employer concerns and economic implications

However, the proposed legislation has faced opposition from employer groups like the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP).

ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. argued that the law could disrupt the “industrial peace” in the Philippines and deter foreign investment.

He expressed concerns that the law could create unnecessary tension between employers and employees and make the Philippines less attractive to foreign investors who operate in different time zones.

Ortiz-Luis Jr. also posed potential negative impact on productivity, stating that employees may want to be kept in the loop even outside of work hours.

He suggested that the abundance of labour laws in the Philippines is already a deterrent to foreign investment and that adding another regulation could exacerbate the problem.

“Many antiquated laws need to be scrapped. We don’t need to keep adding to them. It just creates tension in the relationship between employee and employer,” he said.

The Philippines’ unique context and work culture

The cultural context and existing labour practices in the Philippines also need to be considered in passing a right to disconnect law.

The country has a strong culture of overtime work, with many employees working long hours to support their families.

Additionally, the rise of remote work and digital communication tools has blurred the lines between work and personal life, making it even more challenging to disconnect.

Experts who studied the impact of similar legislation in Australia, however, insist on the importance of clear guidelines and expectations around after-hours communication.

Professor Emmanuel Josserand from the University of New South Wales Business School said the success of such a law depends on establishing a framework that balances the needs of both employers and employees.

“Research suggests that maintaining healthy boundaries between work and personal life is crucial for managing stress. Out-of-hours contact can disrupt much-needed rest and recovery time, potentially exacerbating existing stress,” he said in an article.

Is the Philippines ready for the right to disconnect?

The question of whether the Philippines is ready for its own right to disconnect law is complex and multifaceted.

While the potential benefits for employee well-being are clear, the concerns raised by employers cannot be ignored.

As the debate continues, it is crucial to consider the unique context of the Philippines and to develop a nuanced approach that addresses the needs of all stakeholders.

The right to disconnect is not just a matter of labour law; it’s a reflection of evolving societal values and the changing nature of work.

As technology continues to blur the lines between our professional and personal lives, the need for clear boundaries and the right to disconnect becomes increasingly important.

The Philippines, like many other countries, is grappling with this issue, and the path forward requires careful consideration and open dialogue.

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Topics: Economy & Policy, #Wellbeing

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