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Bosses being ignored in 'right to disconnect' could hurt Aussie businesses

Would employees being able to ignore their bosses out-of-hours requests stop Australia moving forward?

Australian workers may be given the “right to disconnect”, meaning their bosses can’t expect them to respond to emails, phone calls or texts out of work hours.

Negotiations are ongoing about the details of the changes to industrial laws and the “right to disconnect” has only recently been added after a push from the Greens, who said employees were increasingly being expected to put in unpaid hours as work continued its creep into our personal lives.

Greens leader Adam Bandt celebrated the opportunity for workers to “ignore your boss when you clock off”, but not everyone thinks it’s a good idea and have claimed it promotes laziness, or will impact their business.

Are you a boss concerned about the right to disconnect? Or a worker struggling with overtime? Contact belinda.grantgeary@yahooinc.com with your story.

“Is this the way to drive our country forward? Is this the spirit with which we built our great nation? Is this the attitude which has meant good people can work hard and get ahead? I think not,” Perth mayor Basil Zempilas questioned in a post on X.

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The legislation, which would slap guilty parties with a fine, would have provisions to ensure employers could contact staff outside work hours if it were “reasonable”, like filling a shift, Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke said.

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But, business groups had argued the laws could be a barrier for already-struggling organisations to flourish in a troubled economy, expressing their ‘grave concerns’.

“We cannot allow industrial relations laws to make it harder for hard-working business owners to generate the wealth we enjoy as a nation,” a statement issued by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.

“We cannot allow industrial relations laws to make it harder for small business owners to grow, create valuable jobs, and invest in skills.”

Bosses are now facing the prospect of not being able to contact their workers outside of hours, unless it's reasonable, as the blurring lines between personal and work life are taking a toll.
Bosses are now facing the prospect of not being able to contact their workers outside of hours, unless it's reasonable, as the blurring lines between personal and work life are taking a toll. (Source: Yahoo Finance)

Associate Professor in Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, Chris F Wright, said the change is needed, particularly as smart phones made it easier for managers to contact workers any time and the boundaries of personal and work life blurred with remote work.

"Availability creep has led to significant unpaid overtime which “'takes workers away from a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay'," Wright said.

He noted many other countries already have established regulations limiting employers contacting staff outside hours.

The new laws are slated for a final vote in the Senate today.

Full-time workers are the most likely to have worked overtime, with 79 per cent putting in time outside their scheduled hours, according to a 2022 report from the Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work.

More than a third said overtime was an expectation in their workplace, with the biggest causes being:

  • Too much work (36 per cent)

  • Staff shortages (28 per cent)

  • Fewer interruptions (26 per cent)

  • Manager expectations (23 per cent)

The impacts were tiredness, stress and anxiety, along with disrupted relationships and lower motivation.

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Yahoo Australia