As an employer or employee, how many of us really know what is acceptable when it comes to contact out-of-office hours.

Love it or loath it the smartphone has integrated itself into our lives in many ways, many individuals are tethered to it most if not all the time, messaging, browsing, gaming and shopping. The convenience of being available to receive calls or emails wherever you are can also have a negative impact on your personal time if your employer chooses to contact you out of hours. Many people must be connected to the workplace via their smartphone and the introduction of working from home has further muddied the acceptable communication waters, as some companies consider they can engage with their employees at any time.

The importance of disconnecting from work is essential for everyone, even business owners and managers need a balance when it comes to work and personal time. However, some employers are abusing their employees’ personal time rights by calling out of hours.

So, what are the rules or etiquette when it comes to an employer contacting a worker out of their contracted hours.

UML have examined the issue of worker’s rights and if there are any laws to prevent an employer from infringing on an employee’s personal time.

The Rules

There is no law that prevents an employer from contacting an employee out of hours, but The Working Times Regulations 1998 stipulate that workers have the right to uninterrupted rest each day (11 hours).

In Ireland and several other countries in Europe, it is illegal to contact employees out of their contracted hours and many UK business bodies are looking to the government to bring The Right to Disconnect Law to the UK.

The right to disconnect allows employees to disconnect from work outside their stipulated working hours. This right means the employee should not be disturbed or contacted unless in the case of an emergency or they have a contractual agreement to being contacted or are on-call.

The Employer

As an employer, it is important that you respect your employees’ downtime, and contacting them out of hours unless in the case of an emergency is an invasion of their privacy. No employee will be happy at being disturbed in their free time for a work-related call that should be addressed during working hours.

If an email is sent out of hours, you should not expect an employee to open and action that email in their own time. Consider if it is necessary to send that email when the recipient is away from work, some people find it hard to ignore an unopened email and you could be introducing a stress factor to that employee.

Time away from work is important for good mental health and is likely to make for a content and more efficient employee in the workplace, not allowing your employees to disconnect will breed resentment and bad feelings which is never good for a business.

If a worker is issued with a company mobile phone, unless stated in their contract it does not mean they are always on call.

The Employee

As an employee, you will have a contract which will set out your working hours. If your job involves being on call, this should be included in your contract so there are clear lines as to when you can be contacted.

If you feel your employer is not respecting your personal time, it may be worth having a conversation with them regarding what you consider acceptable contact. You have a right to your personal time and privacy.

Conclusion

It is essential that everyone in a business has a work-life balance. If too much is asked of an employee, there is a chance of burnout and the same goes for a business owner or manager, we all need time away from work.

Rest time enables everyone to recharge their batteries and clear their heads, research has demonstrated that productivity is greater if the work-life balance is respected.

For over 50 years UML have provided convenient and affordable workspace and offices to rent for businesses of all sizes. We have a range of properties across South West London and Surrey, all within easily accessible commuter links. If your business is looking for a new home get in touch with us today on 0203 725 7900 for more information on what we have to offer.