Right to Disconnect Bill, 2018 – a Contemporary Analysis of Employee Rights in India

Author: Radhika Bhatti is a 5th-year student at National Law University, Jodhpur pursuing her B.A. LL.B. (Business Law Hons.), Co-Author: Sonal Lalwani is a 5th-year student at National Law University, Jodhpur pursuing her B.A. LL.B. (Intellectual Property Rights Hons.).

The present article primarily interprets the Right to Disconnect Bill, 2018 along with providing a comparative analysis of similar laws in other legal jurisdictions. The article briefly summarises the sociological and psychological factors supporting the existence of the “Right to Disconnect” in contemporary society.

The Right to Disconnect Bill, 2018 [hereinafter “the Bill”] was introduced to enable work-life balance for employees in India. The primary focus of the Bill was to provide employees with the right to not revert to work-related calls and e-mails after working hours have ended and to place a blinder between the personal and professional lives of employees. The Bill’s enactment might have provided relief to employees who, because of the competitive nature of their jobs, struggle to draw boundaries between their personal and professional lives and are forced to sacrifice their well-being for the comfort of job security.

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), 70% of the organizations plan to stick to a long-term hybrid model even after the end of the pandemic raising serious health and safety concerns for the working population. A survey conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), established that the well-being of the working population has been impacted owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The worst impacted were working women with families who had to now find a balance between both their work life and home life while acting as primary caretakers of their families.

The Right to Disconnect Bill was introduced by MP Supriya Sule in 2019. The purpose of the bill was to give the employees the right not to respond to the employer’s e-mails, texts or calls after official working hours. Section 7 of the Bill provides the employees the right to disconnect outside of working hours, where they would have no obligation to entertain work calls after office hours and also makes sure that they are not being subjected to disciplinary action by the employer for the same.

History of Right to Disconnect

Under the international regime, “Right to Disconnect” is a derivation of Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states the following: “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure including the right for the rational limitation of working day and periodic holidays with pay”. It can also be seen as an evolution of the biblical concept of “Sabbath” which says that the seventh day of the week should be observed as a day of rest, drawing a boundary between time to work and rest.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees every citizen of India the “Right to Life and Liberty”. This, by broader interpretation guarantees the right to a certain quality-of-life that every person should be ensured as an employee of an organization. Though the courts have not explored this interpretation yet, the Bill has touched briefly upon this subject.

This right has been at the forefront of the debate for new-age labour rights and at present has been given protection in several European countries. France was the first country in the world to touch upon this subject with the implementation of their El Khomri law. Subsequent enactments in the rest of Europe have been discussed by legislators in the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment. The European Parliament also passed a resolution in favour of the “Right to Disconnect” on 21st January, 2021.

Impact of the Right to Disconnect Bill, 2018 on the Employees of India

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the earlier status quo and as the situation worsened, a nationwide lockdown was imposed in India followed by the educational institutions and workplaces hastily switching to a virtual mode of operation while being unequipped to handle this new mode of operation. This resulted in having to stay connected round the clock as the boundaries between personal and professional life started to blur, leading to stress and health disorders too.

The right to disconnect is present in certain European countries such as France, Spain, Scotland, Italy, Belgium, Slovakia and Germany. In Germany, the “Right to Disconnect” is not governed by some specific legislation but instead is a modality adopted by a large number of German multinationals. The Philippines also became the first Asian country to recognize the “Right to Disconnect” and include it in its labour regime. Shortly, various countries adopted similar legislations  and started to enact the right to disconnect legislation. However, there are certain concerns with regards to the applicability of the right to disconnect, some of which are as follows:

I.      Issues with Implementation for Medical Professionals

The COVID-19 health crisis highlighted the importance of frontline essential workers and the services they provide. Where healthcare professionals are already burdened due to the prevailing logistical issues and the healthcare systems across the world are inadequate to accommodate for conditions such as the second wave of the coronavirus as well, implementation of the right to disconnect can pose various issues because the equipped medical professionals may find it impossible to draw boundaries, nor can it be justified or practical to completely switch off from their profession due to the nature of their work.

Though, the Bill makes an attempt via Section 8 to take this problem under consideration by stating that: the “right to disconnect rules and protocols shall be negotiated at the level of individual company or society taking into consideration the diverse work cultures of different entities and their competitive needs.”

The Bill fails to provide a solid solution to providing respite to workers engaged in the medical profession. Thus, though the Bill is a necessity for many workers engaged in different sectors, the Bill is not without shortcomings. Therefore, the authors recommend that certain provisions require further deliberation to meet the changing needs of healthcare workers.

II.      Might Lead to Proper Allocation of Household Work and Move Away from Traditional Gender Roles

The birth of the right to disconnect can help with the “second shift”, as described by sociologist Arlie Hochschild. The eight-hour workday puts the workers off the clock and provides for leisure time. Sadly, for most women in urban and rural cities this entails that after their eight-hour day they merely shift to a different kind of work, i.e., unpaid household work. With the right to disconnect, a domino effect occurs as employees receive the discretion to reject work outside of working hours. If the right to disconnect is properly enforced and implemented, we can expect a shift from the allocated gender roles as everyone can contribute to household work equally.

Due to a work-from-home setting, most of the working population felt their professional and personal boundaries getting blurred. In a traditional country like India, women are still the primary caretakers of their children and in this blurred reality, they are struggling to meet their official responsibilities and those at home, becoming victim to psychological problems such as stress, depression and anxiety as they struggle to find a work-life balance. Many also had to forgo childcare services when the nationwide lockdown and panic became the new reality. Sections of the society were struggling between climbing the ladder of professional success or taking care of their children. The closing of schools further put a burden on mothers, who are usually the informal caretakers of most Indian households.

A 2018 study of worldwide attitudes toward mothers in the workforce spoke to two particular attitudes: first, that women in the workforce can be a detriment to their children and families. The second finding pertained to traditional attitudes about gender roles, and the expectation that women should be at home to raise children while fathers should hold the role of breadwinner.

If a solution to this problem is not found, we will find society moving in a socially and economically backward era. This attitude would negatively impact society as it hinders utilizing the working capabilities of half of the population. The same would also lead to an economic slowdown.


As opposed to before, on account of social distancing and self-isolating, the lifestyle of individuals increasingly became sedentary. A survey noted that the daily sitting time increased from five hours to eight hours per day. People of all age groups had enormous screen time and for the working population, the hours have been longer than before due to coordination delays amplified by the distance due to the virtual platform. India has one of the highest burdens of cardiovascular diseases worldwide, which shall only worsen if the screentime of the individuals continues to be high, as the two have an interconnectedness. Low levels of physical movement and high sedentary time have an impact on the overall health of an individual, cardiovascular diseases included. With the introduction and proper implementation of the Bill, India can be a country with a healthier population with lower rates of diseases.

India’s first-ever nationwide survey on mental health covered 28 states in 2015-2016 and recognized the prevalence of anxiety disorders in India. The survey also noted that 3.1% of the population of India suffers from anxiety disorders. With respect to the working population of the country, much of the stress can be reduced with an option to unwind. The right to disconnect can be a medium to ease the anxiety of many. A relationship exists as the anxiety amongst the workers can be reduced by the right to disconnect. The expectation of always being available can be eradicate as using Section 7(b) of this Bill, the employees cannot be penalized, nor can any disciplinary action be taken against those who are not available outside of work hours.

The employees will enjoy the power to “let go” in a digital age where the blurred lines between “at home” and “at work” are making people across different age groups victims of health concerns.

Digital presentism is an essential reason behind the burnout and anxiety suffered by the employees and has a resultant impact on their cognitive and emotional functions. Remote employment has opened a whole can of worms that needs to be systematically regulated before it takes the shape of a larger problem.






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