February 27, 2024

Australia is on track to pass a bill that includes giving employees the “right to disconnect” and decline calls from their employers outside of work hours.

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment Act of 2023, also called the “closing loopholes” bill, amends Australia’s Fair Work Act of 2009, and impacts workplace relations laws, as well as temporary employees.

Under the proposed bill, employers who contact employees after hours could potentially face fines, and “employees are not required to monitor, read or respond to work communications from their employer outside of work hours.”

“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, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, told reporters Wednesday.

Albanese’s Labor Party teamed up with the left-wing Greens party, which proposed the bill, and other smaller parties as well as independents in parliament to support the bill, The Independent reported.

Other countries including Kenya and France have implemented similar laws protecting workers from having to answer calls and messages from their bosses after hours.

Employment Minister Tony Burke said the bill received a majority in parliament to pass, according to The Independent.

Meanwhile, Barbara Pocock, workplace relations spokesperson for the Greens, told The Independent that even though the “right to disconnect” would apply to all workers, the amendment “won’t disturb all kinds of changes where people are paid to be on call or where their job description requires it or where there’s an emergency.” She added that employees must first discuss the issue with their boss, and can reach out to the Fair Work Commission for a stop order if their employer does not stop.

However, Pocock told The Guardian that the amendment would allow employers “reasonable contact” with employees, such as “if there is a particular need like a change in your working conditions you need to know about” like the location or timing.

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