Employees’ right to switch off when they clock off

by | Feb 9, 2024 | Employment Law

The Australian parliament has passed laws giving employees a right to ignore emails or phone calls from their employer outside of core work hours without fear of punishment. This gives employees the right to “switch off when they clock off.”

Employers will still be able to contact employees out of hours for reasonable purposes, such as to contact employees about changes in shifts. But if the employee chooses not to answer or respond, they cannot be punished for it. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said, “Someone who’s not being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalised if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day.”

What is “reasonable contact” will depend on factors such as how often the employee is contacted, the method of contact, the nature of their job, whether they are being paid, and their family responsibilities.

The protections will not apply to situations where workers are paid to be on call, or where their job description requires it, or where there is an emergency.

The right to disconnect from work will be enforceable. If an employee believes they are being contacted unreasonably, they should first discuss it with their employer. If the dispute is not resolved, they can apply to the Fair Work Commission for a stop order. If the employer does not comply with the stop order, they can be fined.

The changes will be phased in over a period of 6 months, with a longer period for small business, to give employers sufficient time to adapt.

Employers should review their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the new legislation.

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