The “right to disconnect,” or letting employees disregard work-related communications after office hours without disciplinary action is, technically, a voluntary engagement between employers and their employees, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said yesterday.

“Answering or ignoring texts, emails from employers after working hours is a voluntary engagement of an employee, and they are not obliged to respond or not. The right to disconnect is a choice of an employee,” Bello said.

Acknowledging the digital technology for tremendous advantage at work, the labor secretary said that the bill that seeks for no work-related communications after office hours might ease burnout and stress to the employees by drawing a clearer line between work and home.

Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo authored House Bill 4721, which aims to amend the Labor Code of the Philippines.

The bill obliges employers “to establish the hours when employees are not supposed to send or answer work-related e-mails, texts, or calls,” and the conditions and exemptions in line with it, subject to rules provided by the Department of Labor and Employment.

“Employees and employers know that there’s time for connection and so does a time for disconnection. It’s always up for the employees to oblige themselves to work even after office hours,” Bello said.

He also added that completely disconnecting would be unrealistic for certain jobs, and the employers must be the one to implement a policy in accordance with the standards of the labor code, which will benefit both parties.

“It’s the employers’ own assessments and evaluations to reduce out-of-hours work. They either implement policy that will prevent their employees to work after office hours or compensate them for extra workload,” Bello ended.

###Abegail De Vega

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