ARTICLE
17 April 2024

Right to disconnect: Employment laws in Australia

JS
JB Solicitors

Contributor

Our team would be known as inspiring leaders within the community, displaying strong leadership on important issues in society even if it comes at a short-term cost. In delivering value by being both innovative and convenient, using technology and shifting the culture of work-life in the profession, we will attract the best and most diverse team of people. By creating opportunity and revolutionising our segment of the Profession through innovation and convenience for clients, we will assert a strong belief that having work experience at JB Solicitors is a door-opening in the legal profession. The knowledge and experience gained in working at our firm will be equivalent to, if not better than, obtaining an internship at a large top tier law firm.
Explores the concept of the right to disconnect, starting with an explanation of "right to disconnect".
Australia Employment and HR
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A new legislation in Australia grants employees the "right to disconnect" from work outside business hours. This is set to take effect on 26 August 2024. It is part of the "closing loopholes" legislations that are part of the Fair Work Act. What does the right to disconnect mean? In this article, we will explore the concept of the right to disconnect.

The Right to Disconnect

As the name suggests, this right allows employees to disconnect, or switch off from work after hours. They are allowed to choose not to engage with any work-related communication. Exercising this right would prevent them from being penalised in case they do not respond to phone calls, emails, or texts after working hours. Essentially, it allows employees to disconnect from unreasonable contact outside of working hours. This bill was introduced as a response to increased concerns about mental health issues caused by work such as anxiety and stress.

Exceptions to the Right to Disconnect

If the employee's denial to respond to contact is "unreasonable", the right to disconnect will not apply. To determine whether the employee's refusal is not reasonable, there are a variety of considerations that need to be made. This includes:

  1. The method of contact that the employer used
  2. The reason for contact
  3. The level of responsibility of the employee, and the nature of their role
  4. If there are any relevant personal circumstances to consider including family responsibilities.

There can be other considerations that can be made to check whether or not the employee's denial is unreasonable.

Potential for Disputes

There could be disputes over what is "reasonable contact." In case of disputes, employees and employers can seek assistance from the Fair Work Commission (FWC). But employers and employees first need to attempt to resolve disputes through discussions at the workplace. If they cannot resolve it among themselves, they can escalate the matter to the FWC. Depending on the circumstances of the matter, the FWC can make orders. Either the FWC can ask the employee to engage the employer, and not refuse contact, or the employer will need to stop contacting the employee.

Implications of the Right to Disconnect

Note that this does not in any way prevent the employers from contacting their employees outside regular working hours. Similarly, it does not prevent employees from working overtime. It is just an instrument that allows employees to disconnect from their work outside of their working hours.

Importance of Right to Disconnect

The importance of the right to disconnect law is that it promotes well-being of employees, and avoids stress and exhaustion caused by overworking. Moreover, it also recognises the need to reduce unpaid work that employees often complete outside working hours.

An article from the Australian Institute mentions research that suggests that rested and balanced employees are more productive when they are working. As per the article, their productivity will decline if employers ask them to work when they could instead be spending quality time with their family or just relaxing in the evenings.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

ARTICLE
17 April 2024

Right to disconnect: Employment laws in Australia

Australia Employment and HR

Contributor

Our team would be known as inspiring leaders within the community, displaying strong leadership on important issues in society even if it comes at a short-term cost. In delivering value by being both innovative and convenient, using technology and shifting the culture of work-life in the profession, we will attract the best and most diverse team of people. By creating opportunity and revolutionising our segment of the Profession through innovation and convenience for clients, we will assert a strong belief that having work experience at JB Solicitors is a door-opening in the legal profession. The knowledge and experience gained in working at our firm will be equivalent to, if not better than, obtaining an internship at a large top tier law firm.
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