Time to account for 'invisible overtime'
China Daily

(Photo: VCG)

According to a report in Legal Daily, a court in Beijing has ruled that the time employees spend working outside of the designated work time and place through WeChat and/or other social media platforms qualifies as "invisible overtime", and the employer is obliged to pay for the extra hours.

Experts suggest that labor laws must introduce the concept of "offline rights", which means that, except for statutory or agreed-upon circumstances, employees must have the right to refuse work-related communication through digital tools during non-working hours; also, they should not face any adverse treatment for doing so.

In this era of digitalized office systems, employees can complete most tasks on computers and smartphones without going to an office.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working gained considerable traction. The omnipresence of the internet connects companies and employees, making online communication and collaboration convenient and greatly improving work efficiency.

But its negative impacts should not be underestimated, as employees can feel trapped while their normal rhythm of life is inevitably disrupted.

There have been cases in which employees faced criticism or were dismissed for not responding promptly to messages from superiors after office hours, not clocking in the required number of working hours or not attending online meetings. It is evident that unreasonable invisible overtime is being enforced sometimes, leading to employees suffering losses or even losing their jobs.

So many employees complain about invisible overtime that it is time to regulate working hours in this new era.

This requires relevant departments to strengthen labor supervision and law enforcement while granting employees "offline rights "to rest during non-working hours. Employees should have the right to enjoy life.

The internet has no boundaries, but life has. Therefore, the law needs to empower employees with the right to say "no" to unreasonable invisible overtime.