February 13, 2024

The Right to Disconnect & What It Really Means for Your Business

What the 'Right to Disconnect' legislative changes means and how businesses can prepare for the change

With the recent legislative changes in Australia, particularly the Closing Loopholes No. 2 Bill, the 'Right to Disconnect' has emerged as a pivotal aspect for business owners and managers to understand and implement. This concept is part of a global trend, with several countries already adopting similar practices.

Australia is considering making it a formal employee right to work from home and to disconnect from work outside of office hours. Although these aren't yet legal rights in awards or legislation, there's significant debate and movement toward making them so. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw temporary allowances for remote work under certain awards, but those were dialled back post-pandemic. Now, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) is revisiting these topics, potentially integrating them into modern awards.

The government has also made strides with the Closing Loopholes No 2 Bill, which includes the right to disconnect, indicating a legislative push towards these changes. However, not everyone's on board—some employers are wary, particularly those pushing for in-office work. And yet, there's evidence that the right to disconnect is already being factored into some enterprise agreements, suggesting some businesses are ahead of the curve.

What Does the Right to Disconnect Mean for Your Business?

What does "right to disconnect" mean? Simply put, it's about setting boundaries on when work-related communication is reasonable, aiming to protect employees' off-hours. This right would empower the FWC to enforce these boundaries, potentially through stop orders, similar to those used for bullying and harassment claims.

This shift could greatly benefit work-life balance, as shown by surveys indicating broad support among HR professionals. Yet, questions remain, particularly around how this interacts with overtime and the practicalities for businesses operating across time zones.

As for the right to work from home (WFH), while not suitable for all roles, this could lead to more negotiated flexibility in work arrangements. This could mean more tailored agreements about work hours and conditions, expanding beyond the current limited circumstances under the Fair Work Act.

Preparing Your Business for the Change

For businesses, now is the time to start preparing. This means:

  • Reviewing policies
  • Considering the operational impacts of these rights, and potentially updating employment agreements
  • Training for managers and communication about expectations around work hours could also be vital steps

Looking Ahead

The FWC's upcoming literature review and consultation phase in March and April 2024 will be critical next steps. After Royal Assent there will be a transition period for businesses - follow us to stay in the loop about what and when you'll need to take action.

You can read more about the Closing the Loopholes bill on the Fair Work site here.

If you need any advice and need help, please reach out at hello@hrdynamics.com.au or 1800 877 747

The information available on this website is intended to be a general information resource regarding matters covered and it is not tailored to individual specific circumstances or intended as a substitute for legal advice. Although we make strong efforts to make sure our information is accurate, HR Dynamics cannot guarantee that all the information on this website is always correct, complete, or up-to-date. HR Dynamics recommendations and any information obtained on this website do not constitute legal advice.

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