Australia to introduce ‘Right to Disconnect’ laws to protect workers’ rights

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Australia is set to introduce new laws granting workers the right to ignore unreasonable calls and messages from their bosses outside of work hours without facing penalties. The proposed legislation, part of a broader industrial relations bill, aims to safeguard work-life balance and protect employees’ rights.

Under the “right to disconnect” provision, employers would be prohibited from expecting employees to be constantly available and responsive outside of their contracted work hours. This move is in line with similar laws already in place in countries like France, Spain, and other European Union nations.

Employment Minister Tony Burke of the ruling centre-left Labor party announced that a majority of senators have expressed support for the legislation. The bill seeks to prevent unpaid overtime by ensuring that employees are not penalized for disconnecting from work-related communications outside of their designated working hours.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphasized the importance of this provision, stating that workers who are not paid 24 hours a day should not be obligated to be available round the clock. The bill is expected to be introduced in parliament later this week.

In addition to the “right to disconnect,” the bill includes other significant provisions, such as creating a clearer pathway from temporary to permanent work and establishing minimum standards for temporary workers and truck drivers. However, some critics, including politicians, employer groups, and corporate leaders, have raised concerns that the right to disconnect could hinder flexible working arrangements and negatively impact competitiveness.

The left-wing Greens party, which initially proposed the right to disconnect last year, welcomed the development as a major victory. Greens leader Adam Bandt highlighted the significance of this provision in addressing unpaid overtime, noting that Australians work an average of six weeks of unpaid overtime each year, amounting to over A$92 billion ($60.13 billion) in unpaid wages across the economy.

The bill represents a significant step towards protecting workers’ rights and promoting a healthier work-life balance in Australia.

(Source: The Guardian | Reuters | The Independent)

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