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EU Bishops call for nations to protect work-free Sunday
People enjoy Sunday leisure time near the Pantheon in Rome, Italy04 March 2021. The Bishops of the European Union and the European Sunday Alliance are urging EU leaders to protect synchronized free-time, which most nations traditionally observe on Sunday.

By Lisa Zengarini

Synchronised free time should be a priority in the EU social-policy agenda, according to European Bishops and other organizations.

In a joint statement published Wedneday, on the occasion of the International Day for a work-free Sunday, the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the EU (COMECE) and the European Sunday Alliance urged political leaders in Europe to protect synchronised free time  - in most European countries traditionally on Sundays.

"This," they say, "is especially relevant in times where the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated existing challenges of digitalisation by intensifying work and extending working hours, thus putting a healthy work-life balance at risk for more people."

Non-stop work

The statement notes that one of the major impacts of the pandemic lockdowns has been an acceleration of previous trends towards increasing levels of mobile and home working.

“With the rise of digital working, the fragmentation and de-limitation of working time has further proceeded. Working in the evenings and during weekends is increasingly common and indeed expected by many employers.”

The Alliance says this increases stress on workers and "affects their work-life balance” and “compromises the health and wellbeing of workers, making them not only sick in the long run but also causing increasingly more often their absence from work due to psychosocial illness for sustained periods of time.”

Day of rest

According to the network - which includes more than 100 national Sunday alliances, trade unions, employers' organisations, civil society associations, churches and religious communities in the European Union - a full day of rest per week is indispensable to recover.

“Indeed," they say, "a common day of rest truly increases wellbeing and brings a positive effect on health.”

“Only during a common day of rest is it possible to pursue volunteer work, civic engagement, joint social, sports or faith-related activities, family time and, more generally, to spend time together,” the statement explains.

EU Bishops also recall that “humans are social beings, and for many of them their health requires more than individual time off at scattered, random moments of the week to spend alone. A day free of work recognised by tradition or custom is therefore 'essential to disconnect, literally and figuratively'."

Visible improvement

The Alliance thus urges political leaders in Europe to make synchronised free time a priority, thus making “a tangible, visible and cherished improvement to the lives of citizens across Europe.”

In particular, the European network calls on the European Commission “to align its upcoming proposal for a directive on a right to disconnect with article 2 of the Council of Europe's Social Charter which already requires ‘a weekly rest period which shall, as far as possible, coincide with the day recognised by tradition or custom in the country or region concerned as a day of rest’.”