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‘Right to ignore’: Australia to allow employees to reject work calls after business hours

Several European Union nations, including France and Spain, have already implemented similar laws that allow their employees to turn off their devices

Australia’s government is introducing a new law that will grant employees the right to refuse unreasonable calls and messages from their supervisors during their non-working hours. If employers breach this policy, they may face fines. The new legislation is a part of several changes that the government is proposing to industrial relations laws, including the “right to disconnect,” which aims at safeguarding workers’ rights and promoting work-life balance.

Several European Union nations, including France and Spain, have already implemented similar laws that allow their employees to turn off their devices. Tony Burke, the Employment Minister of the ruling center-left Labor party, announced that the majority of senators have expressed their support for the legislation in a statement released on Wednesday.

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Australia
Image :Reuters

“Right to disconnect”

The “right to disconnect” provision is a measure to prevent employees from working unpaid overtime by allowing them to disconnect from unreasonable contact outside of working hours. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stated to reporters that the bill is aimed at ensuring that employees who are not being paid 24 hours a day are not penalized if they are not online and available 24 hours a day.

The bill also includes several other provisions, such as providing a clearer pathway from temporary to permanent work and minimum standards for temporary workers and truck drivers. However, some politicians, employer groups, and corporate leaders warn that the “right to disconnect” provision could be an overreach and may undermine the move towards flexible working, impacting competitiveness.

The left-wing Greens, the first to propose the “right to disconnect” last year, support the rule and claimed it to be a significant win for the party. According to Greens leader Adam Bandt, a deal has been reached between Labor, smaller parties, and independents to support this bill.

Bandt stated on Twitter that Australians work an average of six weeks unpaid overtime each year, which amounts to over A$92 billion (US$60.13 billion) in unpaid wages across the economy. He also emphasized that this time belongs to the employees and not their bosses. The bill is expected to be introduced in parliament later this week.

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Dr. Shubhangi Jha

Avid reader, infrequent writer, evolving

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