Solon pushes for workers’ right not to respond to work-related messages after office hours

Image from Winston Castelo's Facebook page
  • Solon filed bill for workers’ right to disconnect from work-related messages after office hours
  • He said workers being forced to indirectly extend working hours by responding
  • He stressed this practice can contribute to burnouts and harmful health effects

MANILA, Philippines – Would this mean no more take-home work?

A solon has filed a bill that, if passed, would give workers the right not to respond to work-related communications they may receive after office hours.

In his explanatory note in House Bill No. 4721, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said workers are being indirectly forced to extend their working hours by responding to work-related calls, emails or text messages. According to him, this practice can lead to serious harmful effects on the worker.

“Studies show that the anticipatory stress and expectation of answering after-hour emails is draining employees, leading to “burnout” or the physical, psychological and emotional distress caused by a total inability to rest and diminished work-family balance, which is essential for individual health and well-being,” he said. “Because employees are expected to respond even after work hours, they are not able to separate from work when they go home, which is when they are supposed to be recovering.”

To prevent employers from continuing with what he described as “undeclared labor”, Castelo wants Section 84 of the Labor Code which defines “Hours worked” revised to include “time spent reading and responding to work-related communications sent through electronic means, including but not limited to email, short messaging service (SMS), and mobile calls, after working hours”.

His bill also adds two subsections giving an employee the “right to disconnect” from work-related messages and mandating employers to set a policy on the use of after-office hour communications “subject to such rules and regulations as the Secretary of Labor and Employment may provide”.