Australia is set to introduce laws giving workers the right to ignore unreasonable calls and messages from their bosses outside working hours without penalty, with potential fines for employers who break the rule.
The “right to disconnect” is part of a series of changes to industrial relations laws proposed by the Federal Government as part of a bill in Parliament, which it says protect workers' rights and work-life balance.
Similar laws giving employees the right to turn off their devices already exist in France, Spain and other EU countries.
Labor Minister Tony Burke of the ruling centre-left Labor Party said in a statement on Wednesday that a majority of senators had now expressed support for the legislation.
This provision prevents employees from unpaid overtime through the right to avoid unreasonable contact outside of work hours, Burke said.
“What we are simply saying is that someone who is not paid 24 hours a day should not be penalized because they are not online and available 24 hours a day,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters earlier on Wednesday.
The draft law is expected to be presented to Parliament later this week.
The bill also includes other provisions such as a clearer path from temporary to permanent employment and minimum standards for temporary workers and truck drivers.
Some politicians, employer groups and business leaders warned that the right to disconnect clause went too far and would undermine the transition to flexible working and impact competitiveness.
The left-wing Green Party, which supports the rule and first proposed it last year, said it was a major victory for the party. Green Party leader Adam Bandt said on Twitter that an agreement had been reached between Labour, minor parties and independents to support this bill.
“Australians work an average of six weeks of unpaid overtime each year,” Bandt said.
That equates to more than A$92 billion ($60.13 billion) in unpaid wages across the economy, he added.
“This time is for you. Not for your boss.”
($1 = 1.5300 Australian dollars)
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