Introducing the Right to Disconnect

2 May 2024

Following the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No. 2) Act 2024 receiving Royal Assent on 26 February 2024, Australia has now joined the ‘right to disconnect’ movement that has gained traction globally in the recent years. Coming into effect on 26 August 2024 (or 26 August 2025 for small businesses), this legislation is a response to growing concerns around work-related mental health issues linked to stress, burn out and overwork, and will change the way in which employers can communicate with employees.

What is the right to disconnect?

The right to disconnect gives employees the right to refuse to monitor, read or respond to contact or attempted contact from their employer outside of work hours. The right to disconnect will also extend to allow employees to refuse to respond to contact or attempted contact outside of ordinary work hours from third parties (e.g. a client) in relation to work matters. This right applies to any form of communication and will become a protected right under the general protections’ regime of the Fair Work Act. The legislation will not prevent employees from working additional hours, but ensures they are able to disconnect from ‘unreasonable contact’ outside of their designated working hours.

The right to disconnect will not apply to circumstances in which an employee’s refusal is deemed to be unreasonable. The factors to be considered when determining whether contact outside working hours is reasonable or unreasonable include:

  • The reason for and urgency of the contact / attempted contact;
  • How the contact was made and the extent to which it caused disruption to the employee;
  • Whether the employee is compensated for working outside of their ordinary hours;
  • The nature of the employee’s role and responsibilities at work;
  • The employee’s personal circumstances.

How can employers prepare?

To prepare for the right to disconnect, employers may:

  • Review existing contracts and position descriptions to ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly documented and remuneration is suitable for those expected to be contactable outside of ordinary hours.
  • Set clear boundaries within the organisation regarding communication and the use of workplace technology outside working hours. This may include policy development and team training / discussions.
  • Provide training for managers in relation to the new legislation.
  • Cultivate a workplace culture that encourages work-life balance and organically provides employees with the right to disconnect, while also supporting flexible working arrangements.

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