New research published by Ipsos suggests that more than half of UK adults would support the introduction of legislation giving employees the right to ignore work-related communications outside of their official working/on-call hours.
The representative sample of 1,050 British adults aged 16-75 found that 60% of those interviewed for the online poll carried out in February are in favour of such a move.
Attitudes to Work, which includes the views of 698 people in work, also found that 67% of this working sample says they already participate in work-related communications, such as responding to emails, texts and instant messages, outside of their working hours.
This high percentage may explain why there is such strong support for legislation that could provide greater clarity on managing work boundaries.
Conducted using its online omnibus, Ipsos asked the 1,050 respondents to imagine that the UK government was considering introducing a law giving employees the right to ignore work-related communication outside of their official working or on-call hours. They were given emails, texts, instant message and phone calls as examples of what this communication could be.
The poll found that 34% would strongly support such a move while only 11% said they would be against it.
The research also explores wider issues around the workplace and reveals that 60% of the 1,050 interviewed would support legislation that gives employees the right to disconnect (switch off work-related messages and devices outside of office hours).
Of the 698 working adults who admit to participating in work-related communications outside of their working hours, 43% say they check correspondence such as emails, texts, instant messages and voice messages while 40% reply to communication, including phone calls from work. A third (34%) participate in communications such as emails, texts, instant messages and phone calls. Only 30% refuse to communicate with work outside their official working hours.
'More than half of 16-34 year olds believe it is acceptable for employers to expect their employees to check work-related communications outside of hours'
In November last year, Portugal passed new labour laws that ban employers from contacting employees by phone, message or email outside of normal working hours.
The new legislation, however, does have some limitations. For example, Portuguese MPs rejected a proposal to provide a legal right to switch off work-related messages and devices outside of office hours.
The Ipsos research also explores attitudes to employers contacting employees outside their official working/on-call hours.
The poll reveals that 55% of the total 1,050 adults sampled feel it is unacceptable for employers to expect their employees to check for work-related communications. Similar proportions say it is unacceptable for employers to expect staff to respond (58%) and for employees to send work-related communication (57%).
The research does reflect differences in attitudes among age groups. Younger respondents tend to be most likely to believe such expectations are acceptable, says Ipsos.
As a comparison, 56% of 16-34 year olds believe it is acceptable for employers to expect their employees to check work-related communications outside of hours, compared with 34% of 33-75 year olds.
They are also more likely to report that they perform work-related tasks outside official working hours.
One of the topical issues raised by the research in light of the move to remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic is interviewee attitudes towards the right to disconnect and flexible working and which should take priority.
According to the findings, 32% of the total 1,050 adults sampled feel it is more important to give employees the right to disconnect than it is to give them more flexibility around the time that they work.
However, 24% of all the respondents say that it is more important to give employees a degree of choice over the times that they work while 37% say both are equally important.
The research also explores whether households with different incomes are similarly affected. The responses show that households with a total income of £55,000 and upwards a year are more likely to check, reply to and send work-related communications outside of working hours.
Notably, the findings reveal that 82% say they do this compared with 65% in households with a total income of up to £54,999.
In January, IOSH magazine hosted a one-hour webinar in partnership with EcoOnline, which looked at issues related to hybrid work schedules.
The expert panel discussion covers how to effectively manage the risks around this new work pattern, including the challenge of maintaining a work-life balance and managing employer expectations.