American workers may wish they had a right that Belgium workers just got—the right to disconnect. I’m Amy E. Feldman.
Starting February 1st, government workers in Belgium will be protected by a new regulation known as the right to disconnect, which says workers can only be contacted outside normal working hours in exceptional and unforeseen circumstances. Well that sounds great—unless of course, you need to talk to your doctor if you’re sick. Or lawyer if you’re being arrested. Or first responder. Yeah, pretty problematic.
The rule does not exist in the US, but American workers do get one benefit for after-hours communications: pay. Nonexempt workers who are entitled to receive overtime have to be paid for all the time they work, even just to answer a phone call or respond to an email after hours if it takes more than a trivial amount of time. That ought to make the boss think about whether your services are needed RIGHT NOW or if maybe this can wait.