Navigation mobile icon
Mobile navigation close window icon
Capabilities icon
what we do
Expand section icon
additional services to ask about:
talent strategy & development
employee engagement & retention
total rewards
change strategy & enablement

As Right-to-Disconnect Laws Hit Europe, Will U.S. Follow Suit?

Over the last five years, there’s been an increasing focus on laws centered around digital protections and worker’s rights, specifically the “right to disconnect.”

Over the last five years, there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of laws centered around digital protections. Anyone who’s worked online in some capacity during this timeframe is likely familiar with the biggest digital law to become enacted: the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR

And while GDPR was about digital protections (and privacy of customer/consumer data), the focus has now shifted more toward worker’s rights, specifically the “right to disconnect.” That is, the right of a worker to be inaccessible to their employers outside of work hours, promoting a healthier work-life balance. 

It’s notable that the vast majority of such laws – and the movements around them – have originated in Europe. And it makes sense why. European culture has a strong proclivity for extended holidays – often taking off the entire month of August. This is quite literally a foreign concept to most workers in the United States. 

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the swift rise of remote work, the tides are changing in the way Americans view and respect their own work life boundaries. This begs the question as to what the U.S. workforce might look like if it were to take a page out of the EU’s playbook.  Let’s dig deeper into the laws already established in the EU. 

Modern Legal Precedents for Digital Protections 

The vast majority of laws centered around digital protections got their start in Europe. The current focus of digital protections is the right-to-disconnect, which means an employer would no longer be able to contact an employee outside of work hours nor expect a reply to emails, texts, or Slack messages. 

France’s “right to disconnect” law was enacted in 2017 and “refers to employers’ obligation to stop encroaching on their employees’ personal and family lives with calls and emails.”

But France isn’t alone in their efforts. Portugal recently passed a law that imposes fines on companies for contacting employees outside of work hours or monitoring them while they work at home. Companies must also now cover the expenses incurred by their employees while working remotely including bills for electricity and the internet. Additionally, measures to tackle loneliness and mental health were addressed, with companies expected to organize in-person meetings at least every two months. 

And still another example comes from Belgium. Federal employees in Belgium no longer have to answer emails or take phone calls outside of work hours as of February 2022, with plans for the law to extend to the private sector. There’s even an EU-wide law in consideration for the "right to disconnect."

There aren't any laws currently planned in the United States regarding the right to disconnect. Though there has been a rise in recent years of unionization efforts and other worker’s rights movements, largely driven by the Covid-19 pandemic and the dramatic increase in remote workers. 

In light of these shifting priorities, some are calling for the U.S. to follow the EU’s lead. And it may very well be time for organizations to consider setting boundaries regarding employee time off and respecting work hours, if not for protecting worker’s rights, then at the very least for employee longevity and talent retention. 

But whose responsibility is it to establish and enforce those boundaries?  Perhaps it’s a shared responsibility between the employer, employee, and people managers.

What Organizations Can Do Promote a Right-to-Disconnect

Though no laws are on the books in the U.S. that ensure an employee’s right to establish a healthy work-home separation, more organizations and companies are recognizing the need to set boundaries for their employees, especially due to the tight labor market.  At the organizational level, company owners and operators may wish to consider the following: 

  • Establish a set of internal policies that create a culture of respecting employee “off” time. 
  • Coordinate with employees to see what their preferred work hours are (remote working can sometimes make this tricky) to create a company-wide contact schedule. 
  • Don’t make contact with employees during vacations and scheduled, pre-approved time-off.
  • Model the established internal policies at the highest levels of the organization. 

Through the implementation of such practices, organizations have the power to set the tone for a healthy virtual workplace. And showing employees this level of respect may directly relate to the retention of talent over the long-term. 

Managers and Employees Share in Responsibility 

Though the majority of “setting the tone” for the right-to-disconnect is on organizations to implement, managers and employees share in this responsibility. That is, it is often in the hands of managers and employees to maintain and uphold the organization’s policies. 

At this level, the right-to-disconnect can be codified by: 

  • Not sending emails, Slack or text messages during non-working hours. Instead, you can schedule them to go out at the start of business the next day. Or, at the very least, managers can make it abundantly clear that a response is not expected outside of the employee’s established work hours. 
  • Similarly, employees or remote teams should hold up the organization’s stated policies by not responding outside of their established hours as well. Often, employees feel pressure to respond immediately if a manager texts outside of work hours, so sticking to the stated policies is especially important to avoid unnecessary stress. 

It's a collaborative effort to establish, follow, and enforce these informal policies. Managers, especially, would need to model the behavior the organization wishes to see. But employees should model healthy boundaries as well, even if it’s as simple as setting a notification schedule in Slack or reminding their colleagues of their flexible work arrangements, if they exist. 

Though the future of potential right-to-disconnect laws in the United States are unclear, what is certain is that a tidal wave of new remote workers during the pandemic era has fostered a need to consider the merits of digital protections. And if companies wish to attract and retain the best talent going forward, establishing a culture of healthy work boundaries may be something to put into practice.

more insights


Subscribe to our newsletter for regular insight and news

Our Latest White Paper!
Human Led, AI Assisted
Uniting Artificial and Human Intelligence to Combat Bias in Hiring
Download Today

more insight

Building the Foundations of a Startup Team Culture

An in-depth tutorial and set of worksheets to help startup leaders establish a positive culture from day one is now available.

How to Execute an Effective Total Rewards Program In 3 Simple Steps

Current workforce realities such as competing job opportunities and The Great Resignation make Total Rewards programs vital for attracting and retaining talent. Here’s how companies can do it right.

As Right-to-Disconnect Laws Hit Europe, Will U.S. Follow Suit?

Over the last five years, there’s been an increasing focus on laws centered around digital protections and worker’s rights, specifically the “right to disconnect.”

Many Companies Are Saving Incredible Amounts of Cash During the Pandemic. Where Is It Going?

By downsizing or giving up office space altogether, companies can—and should—redirect money to their employees in meaningful ways. Here's how.

AI & Recruiting: Leveraging Artificial Intelligence While Avoiding Bias

As employers contend with the Great Resignation, the use of artificial intelligence for talent acquisition is more important than ever.

Fear Drives More People at Work Than You Think. Let's Change That.

No matter how scary the prospect, striving to achieve your career goals will always yield better results than staying stuck and afraid.

Lack of Digital Adoption Is Becoming More Common in the Workforce, and That's Problematic

When employees fail to understand or properly utilize important tech tools in the workplace, it can have far-reaching implications and may even impact an organization’s bottom line.

AI Recruiting Tools May Be the Future, But Proceed With Caution

AI recruitment tools--while incredibly useful--can also introduce bias. What can companies do to ensure they increase efficiency without harming equity?

How Companies Can Leverage AI Recruiting to Increase Representation in Hiring

A range of approaches to designing and utilizing AI can actually help diversity hiring.

I Use This One Tool to Get 125% More Done

We're trending towards longer and longer work days--but by embracing a decision-making ideology and a task management tool, we don't have to.

New Hires Weigh In: How Do You Survive The Working World?

Navigating a new job is hard--and managing its ups and downs as a new hire during a pandemic is arguably even harder.

Stress Is Rewiring Our Brains. Can Training Like Navy SEALs Help Combat It?

While few employees are running miles in combat boots, mentally training like the elite military unit may help us reclaim our brains from stress.

Working From Home Has Changed Your Brain and Body. Here’s How.

The virtual workspace isn’t going away. Here’s how WFH is affecting us — and how these changes could reshape the workforce as we know it.

The Life of an HR Executive: a Roundtable Discussion

Human Resources executives are central to the success of an organization, setting the tone for how employees can contribute and thrive. Here, a few industry leaders share their insights.

The Ahmaud Arbery Trial's Social Justice Ramifications Affect Companies and Their Employees. Here's How.

Processing emotionally charged events can impact people in ways that are difficult to manage. What can be done to support them?

Artificial Intelligence Is Shaping the Workforce in Ways You've Never Imagined

From cobots that collaborate with humans to HoloLens, a wearable holographic computer, AI is no longer science fiction.

Yes, Your Nostalgia Is Valid. That Doesn't Mean It Belongs At Work.

As old paradigms fall by the wayside, how we shape corporate culture and do business altogether is transforming at breakneck speeds.

How the LGBTQ+ Movement is Dismantling the Gender Binary System

Uniqueness of identification has grown and blossomed into a spectrum of diversity, challenging the way companies think about DEIB.

The Big Quit: How Burnout Is Reshaping the Workforce

A number of complex forces are steering people away from the workforce, but arguably the most common one is burnout.

Is the 5-Hour Workday the Answer to All Our Problems?

Of all the theories that aim to engender better work-life balance, the five-hour workday is one of the most compelling.

Why You're Probably Using the Word "Strategy" Incorrectly

Just because you say you're operating strategically doesn't mean your plan is strategic.

No, You Can’t Always Just “Be Yourself” At Work. Here’s Why. 

Yes, “be yourself” is definitely sound advice--and these days, employers are known to tell their employees the same thing. But there are limits.

Is Fear a Barrier to Inclusion & Belonging? Why Companies Balk at Action

DEIB programs are surging across the American workplace. Why are some employers still not taking action?

Speed vs. Quality: The Timeless Dilemma

It's not always easy to know when to prioritize speed vs. quality in business. There may be more than one right answer.

Intent vs. Impact: The Communication Disconnect

Your words often don't have the impact you intend them to--which can be problematic, especially in the workplace.

Feedback Doesn't Have to be Scary

Giving and receiving valuable feedback isn't always an easy task. Here are some insights to help you along the way.

Does Unlimited PTO Work?

Unlimited PTO sounds like a dream come true. Is it here to stay, or just the flavor of the week?

Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace: A Webinar

Join us for a dynamic discussion with neurodiversity experts on the benefits of employing a diverse team.

Lessons in Biases from the Olympics

Our biases manifest everywhere--and even during our most celebrated and joyous traditions, they can leave an impact.

A New Norm? Exploring the Four-Day Workweek

Are we truly our most productive when we work five days a week? Recent studies suggest otherwise.

Reflections on LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Corporate America

For Pride Month 2021, Enspira interviewed two pioneers in the LGBTQ+ business community who continue to inspire change.

How to Address & Support Mental Health

Chances are we all know someone who's struggling with unspoken issues. Here's  how to recognize it, thoughtfully reach out, and help.

Four Steps to Cultivating Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging

If we want to see real, sustainable change, we all must continue to acknowledge and celebrate diversity in the workplace.

Caregivers: Working Women in a Pandemic

The raging pandemic has pushed people beyond reasonable limits, and has adversely affected women disproportionately.

Propelling Gender & Racial Equity in STEM

The world is facing monumental challenges in the time of COVID-19, widening existing gaps in racial and gender equity.

Your frontline managers’ capability & effectiveness matters now more than ever. Here’s what you need.

It’s now more important than ever to ensure your organization has strong people manager capability and effectiveness.

Disrupting Your Workplace Culture with “The 3 Bs of Belonging”

How inclusive is your organization? Simply checking the representation boxes and creating policies isn't enough.


explore our offerings & capabilities

additional services

Hand holding plant icon

talent strategy & development

Creating innovative talent management strategies to help build and retain a world-class workforce.

Hand shake icon

employee engagement & retention

Developing comprehensive employee engagement and retention strategies to improve productivity, reduce turnover, and foster innovation.

Gift box icon

total rewards analysis

Identifying optimal combinations of benefits, compensation, rewards, and recognition to enhance employee engagement and performance.

Potted plan icon

change strategy & enablement

Guiding organizations through complex and challenging evolutions to keep employees engaged throughout the journey.

Project development on a desk

Enspira reimagines and revolutionizes the human-work experience with innovative HR solutions that put the power of business purpose in the hands of your people.

contact us
No items found.