Right to disconnect: Australia says no to after-work calls

A proposed new law will empower employees to create a clear boundary between work and their lives by having the freedom to enjoy their personal time.
By: | February 9, 2024

Employees in Australia who continue to receive calls and messages outside of work hours will soon have the legal right to say no to their managers.

According to Tony Burke, Australia’s Employment Minister, a majority of senators have thrown their support behind the “right to disconnect” clause, which is part of a raft of changes to industrial relations laws proposed by the federal government under a parliamentary Bill, which is expected to be passed this month.

While opponents of the law argue that such a move would undermine the move towards flexible working and impact competitiveness, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese insists this would safeguard employees’ rights and help restore work-life balance, reported CNA.

He added, “What we are simply saying is that someone who isn’t being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalised if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day.”

Employees who feel they are being contacted unreasonably are advised to try to address the matter with their employer, failing which, they may escalate the matter to the Fair Work Commission for a stop order. Employers who do not comply will face potential fines.

READ MORE: Concerns raised over Closing Loophole legislation in Australia

Adam Bandt, leader of the Greens party, which is one of the biggest advocates of employees’ right to disconnect, hailed the latest development as a “big win”, highlighting that Australians work an average of six weeks unpaid overtime each year, which equates to more than A$92 billion (US$60.13 billion) in unpaid wages across the economy.

“That time is yours. Not your boss,” said Bandt.