The Guardian • Issue #2087

Right to disconnect

What’s the fuss about?

  • by Anna Pha
  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2087
Woman working from home - family breakfast time.

Photo: stocksnap.io

There has been a surge in the number of employers contacting workers out of hours, in particular since many have worked from home during COVID and continue to do so without the right to on-call allowances. It constitutes unpaid labour.

Under the new ‘right to disconnect’ provisions of the Closing the Loopholes Bill a worker can ignore messages and phone calls from their employer outside their normal hours, unless that refusal is ‘unreasonable.’

Unreasonable includes such things as notification of change in a shift roster or receiving an allowance to be on call. Where a dispute arises, the issue may be taken to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for resolution after attempting to resolve it at the workplace level. How many workers would be up to standing up to their boss and taking a case to the FWC?

The legislation inadvertently permits criminal penalties where an order by the FWC is breached. The government has since repealed that provision.

There are already flexibility clauses in agreements mainly to suit employers. Workers and unions could negotiate new provisions to implement the decision. The employer/media hysteria is about employers having to pay for workers’ labour.

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