Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Ignorance is bliss

The Right to Disconnect Bill introduced in the Parliament gives the workers and professionals the right to ignore work-related calls and emails after office hours. How will it impact the society?

13th January 2019, 03:13 Hrs

JAY JOSHI  


Recently, the Indian Parliament witnessed the tabling of the Right to Disconnect Bill 2018, which gives workers and professionals the right to ignore work-related calls and mails from bosses and colleagues outside office hours. Apart from this, the bill also calls for establishment of counselling centre that will help the workers get a ‘digital detox’ and reduce stress caused by constant digital connectivity. While the bill is still awaiting its passage, the news of its introductions itself has been met with a mix of positivity and caution. On one hand, it is being welcomed as a way to reduce work-related stress, while on the other hand, fear is being expressed that is such a law is passed, it might lead to unintended consequences.   

“There are several aspects to be considered.” warns Ponda-based lawyer Shailesh Kulkarni, “Firstly, even if it looks good on paper, it is difficult to implement the law in a country such as India. It can give rise to petty politics. If an employee ignores his boss’ phone, and chooses to register a complaint under Right to Disconnect, it will spoil his relations with the boss and can even affect his career. The law can work in places where there are strong workers’ unions, but it may have negative consequences where there is no union and every individual must look after their own interests.” says Kulkarni  

Lakshmi Seth, a Revora-based administrative professional has a different view. “I am happy to hear about this bill.” says Lakshmi, “ I think it could be of great help to women who have to fight on two fronts-work as well as home- and as a result, face a lot of stress and anxiety.” Lakshmi also welcomes the fact that the bill calls upon the government to establish counselling centers that “free an employee from digital distraction and enable him to connect with the people around him truly”.   

Saudatta Kundaikar, an IT professional from Verna who now works out of Banglore, says that the matter is subjective. “I cannot say whether the bill is good or bad. It depends from person to person. The IT industry pays attention to work-life balance. If we face pressure and extra work on one day, we are allowed to take a leave on any other day. We can also choose to work from home. Secondly, If I do not want to work, I could always tell the boss on phone that I can’t do the job.” says Saudatta. He further adds that he is personally quite happy with his job and does not mind the after-work calls or emails. However, given that the line between work and life is pretty blur in Indian work-culture, the law might just help, says the IT professional.   

Rajesh Prabhu, a Canacona-based journalist, who is now based in Mumbai, does not see any merit in the bill. “I think the personal freedoms that are granted in the constitution can encompass a person’s right to attend or reject calls. Additionally, there are people who do not attend calls after work anyway, so I wonder why we need a law for that.” says the journalist, terming this bill as completely unnecessary.   

While countries such as Canada, Germany have laws that make it compulsory to leave office after stipulated time, France is the only country which gives its workers the right to ignore calls and emails after work. The concept is also being discussed in Germany among other countries.   

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