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Thursday, February 15, 2024

New law to allow Australian workers ignore office calls after duty hours

The government says the bill, expected to be introduced in parliament later this week, would protect workers' rights and help restore work-life balance.

Australia will introduce a new law that will empower workers to ignore “unreasonable” calls from bosses after duty hours, with potential fines for employers who violate the legislation.

The government says the bill, expected to be introduced in parliament later this week, would protect workers’ rights and help restore work-life balance.

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Employment Minister Tony Burke said the government secured support of majority Senators. “A majority of senators have now declared support for Closing Loopholes 2,” he said on X.

Greens leader Adam Bandt also confirmed support for the law in parliament, saying it would give employees the ability to ignore unreasonable contact from employers after hours.

“If you’ve been asked to answer an email, take a call, or edit a doc on your day off, then this one’s for you: The Greens have just won you the Right to Disconnect. Now, you’ll have the right to ignore your boss when you clock off,” he said in a statement.

“Your boss shouldn’t be able to unreasonably contact you 24/7 if you’re not paid for it. We know it’s bad for stress, health, & relationships – which is why France and over 20 other countries have legislated to protect work-life balance. We’re about to do the same.”

Bandt said Australians work an average of six weeks unpaid overtime each year, adding: “That time is yours. Not your boss’.”

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, commenting on the proposed law, said many companies and businesses have exactly these systems in place in the country.

“What we’re simply saying is someone who’s not being paid twenty-four hours a day shouldn’t be penalized if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day,” he told reporters.

Greens Senator Barbara Pocock said they secured a “right to disconnect,” which means “putting a stop to unpaid overtime, to an unhealthy work-life balance, and to disruptive calls and emails from your boss outside of paid hours.”

Pocock said workers who believe they are persistently contacted by their employers after work hours can take the matter up with them first. But if that does not work, the staffer can approach the Fair Work Commission, which can issue a stop order. It can also enforce the order through other means in case of a breach.