EU social partners in central governments urge Commission to enforce their agreement’s provisions on telework and right to disconnect

digitalisation agreement

(Brussels, 13 December 2023) Following years of discussions and joint guidelines on digital technologies in central government administrations, an agreement on digitalisation was signed on 6 October 2022. More than one year after the adoption of their agreement on digitalisation with provisions on telework and right to disconnect, EU social partners for central government reiterate their call to the Commission to submit a proposal for a decision of the Council of the European Union based on their agreement.

As lockdowns have gone, telework is here to stay. With it comes - on one hand - potential advantages for work/life balance; workers’ autonomy; reduction of commuting time. On the other hand, telework also brings risks in terms of long working hours; isolation; and additional work-related expenses. For many central government administrations and workers, telework represents a major shift in work organisation.

This is why the EU social partners for central government - led by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) on the trade union side and European Public Administration Employers (EUPAE) for governments - agreed to both regulate telework and ensure the right to disconnect becomes a reality as part of an agreement on digitalisation adopted in October 2022. The agreement was signed by Ministers Petra de Sutter (Belgium) and Stanislas Guerini (France) on behalf of EUPAE, and Marco Ouwehand (representing FNV, Netherlands) on behalf of the EPSU-led Trade Unions’ National and European Administration Delegation (TUNED).

The provisions on telework and the right to disconnect, amongst others, uphold the voluntary and reversible nature of telework, equal access for all workers and civil servants, equal treatment and the same trade union rights as for office work. As part of the agreement, telework is subject to health and safety protection regarding workload, sufficient staffing levels, gender equality and anti-discrimination. Domestic violence is recognised as a key concern in a context of teleworking, the consequences of which need to be better prevented and mitigated. As a rule, technological equipment needed to telework must be provided by the Administration, while the right to disconnect should be agreed with trade unions to ensure its effectivity.

At the same time, as development of artificial intelligence is presenting new challenges, the agreement offers a framework for a human based and ethical approach to AI.

The social partners requested the Commission to implement the agreement by a draft decision for Council adoption in line with TFEU article 155.2. Over a year after the signing of the agreement, social partners continue to look forward to discussing the assessment of the agreement by the Commission. The agreement, if given legal weight, would also contribute to the attractiveness of governments as role model employers and enhance cross-border administrative cooperation.

The role of sectoral social dialogue as an integral part of EU good governance and policymaking is one of the key achievements of the EU. In February 2021 the Council recognised the key role that social dialogue plays in its conclusions on telework, particularly in the area of telework. The sectoral agreement also responds to the European Parliament’s request to the Commission in January 2021 to legislate on the right to disconnect in a broader context of digitalisation.

For more information: Pablo Sanchez (EPSU), [email protected] 0032 474626633

EUPAE:  Carlos Moreno Rodríguez, Subdirector General, Subdirección General de Consultoria, Asesoramiento y Asistencia de Recursos Humanos, Dirección General de la Función Pública, Ministerio de Hacienda y Función Pública, [email protected]

TUNED: Nadja Salson, negotiator of the agreement, EPSU Policy Officer [email protected] +32 475961011

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