Singapore

‘Right to Disconnect’ law will protect workers’ rest time: MP

A "Right to Disconnect" law would help employees have protected time to rest and recharge, said labour MP Melvin Yong (Radin Mas) yesterday. It would help address issues such as burnout and lead to safer work places, he added.

Speaking during the debate on the Government's strategy to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic, he cited France for having successfully implemented such a legislation. The country requires employers and employees to negotiate the protocol for non-emergency calls and non-critical e-mails, outside of working hours.

Mr Yong related that a Singaporean working in France had written to him to share that e-mails sent outside of office hours usually have disclaimers that state no immediate response is expected. French companies also schedule non-critical e-mails to be sent at 8am the next working day.

"These are certainly not radical practices, but baby steps which we can easily adopt here in Singapore," said Mr Yong, who is an assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress.

He further pointed to the German concept of Feierabend, which describes the time after the work day ends and when rest time begins.

Critics of his proposal have questioned the feasibility of having such a law for essential service workers.

Mr Yong, a former cop, contended that Singapore's front-line police officers have been practising protected time for years.

"When I was with the police force, my officers and I would be on call 24/7," he said.

"We would receive phone alerts on incidents happening throughout the day. But between the 'silent hours' of midnight to 7am, these alerts were restricted only to a specific list of critical, sensitive cases. This was to ensure that we were sufficiently well rested, even while always on standby."

While acknowledging the need for a more detailed study on how to implement such legislation, he also suggested the Manpower Ministry do an annual survey on workplace mental health, to track workers' mental well-being and best practices among companies.

He expressed the hope that the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Health - due to be published by the end of the year - would include aspects of a "Right to Disconnect".

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