Australian workers may soon enjoy ‘the right to disconnect’ if parliament agrees to reform the Fair Work Act.
In this context, disconnecting refers to not being available to your employer after hours. This includes via the phone, email, text or teams messages.
The legal right to disconnect was introduced in France in 2017 in an effort to protect workers from being penalised for not being contactable outside of hours.
A similar right has been introduced in more than 20 countries, including Spain, France, Ireland and Ontario in Canada.
In Australia, 79 percent of full-time workers are reported to have worked outside their scheduled hours, according to the Australia Institute’s Centre For Future Work, while another report from the institute found that employers steal more than 280 personal hours from their employees each year.
The Australia Institute’s report reveals that regular overtime work doesn’t necessarily increase employee productivity, with people who are expected to work overtime feeling more mentally drained, stressed, less motivated and experiencing less job satisfaction.
While the reasons for working overtime vary, the report found that over a third of workers believed overtime was an expectation in their workplaces. High workloads and manager expectations were also among the more common reasons for unpaid overtime.
In Australia, the right to disconnect bill was introduced by Greens leader Adam Bandt and will be debated in federal parliament next week, alongside with other issues including allowing casual employees to become permanent if they wish and allowing the Fair Work Commission to set minimum pay and conditions for ‘gig economy’ workers and truck drivers.
While working overtime and being contactable on a 24/7 basis is normalised in plenty of workplaces, it’s important not to dismiss its impact on employees.
Stress alone is one leading causes of heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and various other dangerous health problems, and our work is one of the main contributors to our stress.
Whether Australia will be following in the footsteps of France will be left to parliament—let’s hope they make the right decision.