Under a new Australian law, businesses can’t call or email employees after work hours
People down under will have the "right to disconnect."
Nothing can ruin your weekend quite like a text or an email from the boss while you’re enjoying your time off. Having a job where your boss can contact you all hours of the day, can create a constant feeling of stress that makes you feel like you’re never really off the clock.
That’s why Australia, the country with the 4th-best work-life balance in the world, is set to enact a new law that gives its employees the “right to disconnect.”
A parliamentary bill with the majority of support in the Senate and the blessing of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gives workers the right to ignore unreasonable calls or messages from work without penalty. Employers that violate their employee's right to disconnect can be fined.
“What we are simply saying is that someone who isn’t being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalized if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day,” Albanese told reporters.
The Senate chamber erupts into applause to celebrate the passing of the Closing Loopholes bill into legislation — including the Greens’ right to disconnect amendment!— Barbara Pocock (@BarbaraPocock) February 8, 2024
A wonderful day for workers in Australia! pic.twitter.com/M5CkGMFA3c
When the law is passed, Australia will join several countries in the European Union including France and Spain that allow employees to turn off their phones and log out of their emails when they are off the clock.
Greens Party leader Adam Bandt believes the law protects people from working without pay. “Australians work an average of six weeks unpaid overtime each year,” Bandt said. “That time is yours. Not your boss’.”
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:— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) February 7, 2024
The Greens have just won you the Right to Disconnect.
Now, you’ll have the right to ignore your boss when you clock off.
Sydney resident Colvin Macpherson told Reuters it’s a “wonderful” idea. "We all need to relax, we all need to be able to switch off and not be disturbed by emails and phone calls in the middle of the night. Both of my kids are lawyers as well, so they work horrendous hours as it is and you get things coming in at night time," he said.
However, not everyone is over the moon about the law set to be voted on in the coming days. Australia's Chambers of Commerce released a joint statement saying that the new law is government overreach that will harm the country’s economy.
"Modern technology has provided flexibility to the workforce and many employees no longer need to sit behind a desk from nine to five," the statement said. "We cannot allow industrial relations laws to make it harder for hard-working business owners to generate the wealth we enjoy as a nation."
The new Australian law comes at a time when workers worldwide are beginning to feel that there has been an uneasy melding of their personal and professional lives. These days, anyone can be reached at any time via cell phone, email or messaging systems such as Slack, which causes many to feel they constantly have to be “on” all the time.
Further, for many, their office is at home, so there’s an increased expectation for them to work outside business hours.
Time will tell if right-to-disconnect laws are a way to promote healthy work-life balance while also ensuring that business can be run effectively. But it’s comforting to know that big countries are coming to believe that work-life balance should be a top priority.