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Australia Introduces “Right to Disconnect” Legislation to Safeguard Workers’ Work-Life Balance

Sydney, February 08, 2024, The Europe Today: In a significant move to protect workers’ rights and promote a healthier work-life balance, Australia is set to introduce legislation granting employees the right to ignore unreasonable calls and messages from their employers outside of regular working hours, without facing penalties. The proposed “right to disconnect” is part of a broader set of changes to industrial relations laws under a parliamentary bill.

Similar regulations, affording employees the right to disconnect from work-related communications, have already been implemented in countries such as France, Spain, and other European Union nations. The Australian federal government contends that these measures are essential to safeguard workers’ well-being and restore a balance between professional and personal life.

Employment Minister Tony Burke of the ruling center-left Labor party announced on Wednesday that a majority of senators have expressed support for the legislation. The “right to disconnect” provision aims to prevent employees from being compelled to work unpaid overtime by establishing boundaries on unreasonable contact outside of regular working hours.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphasized the importance of the legislation, stating, “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.”

The bill, expected to be introduced in parliament later this week, encompasses additional provisions such as establishing a clearer pathway from temporary to permanent employment and setting minimum standards for temporary workers and truck drivers.

Despite the positive reception from many quarters, some politicians, employer groups, and corporate leaders have expressed concerns, labeling the “right to disconnect” provision as an overreach. Critics argue that it may hinder the trend toward flexible working arrangements and potentially impact competitiveness.

However, the left-wing Greens, which first proposed the rule last year and supports its implementation, hailed the development as a significant victory. Greens leader Adam Bandt confirmed a consensus had been reached between the Labor party, smaller parties, and independents to support the bill, emphasizing its importance in prioritizing the well-being of Australian workers.