One-quarter of financial workers feel obliged to answer work emails out of hours

Financial Services Union calls for ‘right to disconnect’ measures amid survey results

One-quarter of workers in the financial sector feel they are expected to answer calls and emails outside of work hours, according to a survey. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

One-quarter of workers in the financial sector feel they are expected to answer calls and emails outside of work hours, according to a survey. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

One-quarter of workers in the financial sector feel they are expected to answer calls and emails outside of work hours, according to a new University of Limerick (UL) study.

The research was commissioned by the Financial Services Union (FSU) and surveyed almost 2,000 employees in the financial sector.

Some 40 per cent of employees in the survey said their work was monitored “to a significant extent” by technology, while 60 per cent said they had worked outside of their on-the-clock hours.

Gareth Murphy, FSU head of industrial relations and campaigns, said the union was calling for legislation to set out a “right to disconnect” for workers.

Similar legislation was introduced in France in 2017, and in Italy and Spain earlier this year. The legislation would mean in most cases employees would not be expected to monitor or respond to work emails or calls after work hours.

“The impact we’ve seen . . . technology [have] on mental health has intensified and increased over the last number of years,” Mr Murphy said.

“The working day is in many ways being informally extended through smartphones, through devices, and this is more often than not in an unpaid way; pressure is intensifying on workers to be always on,” he said.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys attended the launch of the research on Thursday. An inter-departmental working group was currently examining the right to disconnect, and the issue of remote and flexible working, Ms Humphreys said.

“In France of course they have adopted legislation as we know, but what we want to do is look at all the different options; perhaps you can look at a charter for employers, employees,” she said. The working group would complete a report making recommendations on the issue by the end of the year, she said.

“We do not want to see the work day blurred and then it slips into your free time, we have to have those lines and they have to be clear lines,” the Minister said.

“We don’t want people to feel like they should be answering phone calls at nine or 10 o’clock at night and putting them under that pressure,” she said.

‘Not far enough’

However, the FSU said a charter on the right to disconnect that was not set out in law would not go far enough.

“We would like to see legislation that mandates employers to introduce policies on the right to disconnect through engaging with their unions,” Mr Murphy said.

“We feel that negotiated outcomes on a workplace level will better take consideration of both the employees’ and employers’ work conditions and demands than any charter that is non-legally binding, or legislation that imposes something on a workplace that maybe it doesn’t suit,” he said.

Dr Michelle O’Sullivan, a researcher on the UL study, said other problems included people worrying about work even when they were not checking emails to taking calls.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed believed their employer planned to automate and replace some aspects of their job with technology in the next 10 years. And 40 per cent of those felt their current job would be replaced with automation to a “significant extent” over that period.

Only seven per cent of respondents said they felt their employer had taken steps to prevent the overuse of technology in the workplace.