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Patricia King: 'New legislation will protect workers and tackle the scourge of zero-hour contracts'

 

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Work-life balance: Smartphone technology has blurred the lines between home and work life. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Work-life balance: Smartphone technology has blurred the lines between home and work life. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Work-life balance: Smartphone technology has blurred the lines between home and work life. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The regulation of working hours is one of the trade union movement's earliest and most far-reaching achievements.

Borne out of the long hours toiled by workers, including children, in the factories and mills of industrial Britain, our struggle from Robert Owen's 1817 short-time movement slowly became the accepted norm and then the law from 1997, to the benefit of generations of working people.

In recent years, however, the working day has come under threat on two fronts from an always-on work culture. Smartphone technology is blurring the boundaries between work and home life by making workers easily accessible outside of their workday and exposing them to longer working hours. Without clear guidance from their employer on the right to switch off in their free time, workers feel pressured to answer work-related calls, emails and other electronic messages.


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