The government should not introduce national legislation on the right to disconnect, the Malta Chamber and the Malta Business Bureau said on Friday.

Moreover, "jumpstarting" a process at European level was "neither necessary nor time appropriate", they said.

The right to disconnect allows workers to cut off from work-related activity during out-of-office hours, giving them the right to not respond to emails or phone calls in the evenings or weekends, for instance.

Last month, MEP Alex Agius Saliba told The Malta Independent minister Carmelo Abela had indicated to him that the government wanted to introduce the right to disconnect before the EU passed its own directive on the issue. 

The proposal has already been met with strong objection from the Malta Employers Association.

On Friday, Malta Chamber president David Xuereb said that European legislation such as the Working Time Directive, which is transposed into national law, already set out rules on working and rest time. 

“These rules are adequate, and no further legislation is required. Future legislation, particularly if modelled on a recent Malta-led report in the European Parliament, raises many questions on how this could be implemented without adding substantial administrative burden on businesses.

"Needless to say, this is not the time to increase the burden on companies,” he added.

According to MBB president Simon De Cesare, rather than creating legal obligations, it would be better to create a space for dialogue where employers and workers, together with their representatives, found flexible solutions relevant to their workplace.

The Malta Chamber and the MBB meanwhile welcomed comments published in a European Parliament report by Saliba, which, while calling for an EU directive on the matter, he referred to the European Social Partners Framework Agreement on Digitalisation, acknowledging that it already includes arrangements for connecting and disconnecting.

The agreement will be implemented by social partners within three years.
“The report therefore notes that a legislative proposal before the end of the implementation period would disregard the role of social partners laid down in the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, they said.

“In the spirit of the European Parliament resolution, and in view of the proactive stance by the Maltese social partners, the Malta Chamber and MBB call on the government to refrain from introducing national legislation on the right to disconnect.

"Instead, the government should encourage social partner dialogue to address new challenges and opportunities at the workplace and provide direct support to companies through more dedicated schemes to take up digital tools and provide safe equipment applicable for remote working.”

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