Labor defends ‘right to disconnect’ after claims it risks workplace flexibility
Employers and workers are expected to apply common sense when leveraging the ‘right to disconnect’, the federal government says, following criticism from bosses who claim the reform could end flexible working arrangements.
Photo: Freestocks on Unsplash.
Under Labor’s planned workplace reforms, workers will soon have the right to ignore unreasonable calls and emails outside their rostered shifts.
Federal minister Tanya Plibersek was responding after an employer group warned some workplace flexibility might have to end if the reform is implemented.
Asked if workers should be worried they will lose the ability to attend medical appointments or pick up their children during work hours, Plibersek said “absolutely not”.
“These laws are about making sure you’re not working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, expected to be on call, unless you are paid to be on call,” she said on Monday.
“Of course, there will be exceptions to that.
“You have to apply common sense, but what we are seeing more and more is a nine to five job where you’re expected to be answering emails at 11 o’clock at night, five o’clock in the morning.
“You should be paid those extra dollars.”
The opposition has already said it would scrap the laws if the coalition was returned to government, with shadow finance spokeswoman Jane Hume warning it could stifle productivity.
“It is nonsense red tape that is, in fact, going to punish bosses for providing flexibility in the workplace,” she said.
But Greens leader Adam Bandt, whose party proposed the right to disconnect changes, said he had been overwhelmed by positive feedback.
“Having the right to recharge outside of work hours is absolutely critical,” he said.
“The law just hasn’t kept up with technology.”
The government’s legislation, which cleared parliament on Thursday, includes penalties for employers who breach the new rules.
However, the government is expected to legislate again to alter those penalties.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said on the weekend the coalition had the opportunity to vote against breaches being considered a criminal matter, but chose to leave it in place.