Australians have now secured the legal right to prioritise personal time over work commitments as the “right to disconnect” bill was successfully passed by the nation’s Senate on Thursday.
This legislation empowers workers to ignore calls, emails, and other work-related messages outside of their designated work hours.
The bill aligns Australia with countries like France and Germany, both of which have already implemented similar laws to safeguard employees’ personal lives.
Sydney resident Colvin Macpherson expressed support for the legislation, stating, “I think it’s a wonderful idea. We all need to relax, we all need to be able to switch off and not be disturbed by emails and phone calls in the middle of the night.”
Another resident, Ivan Karajas, echoed this sentiment, saying, “In general, I think the idea that you should be able to switch off when you get to the end of your workday and when you are at home doing your own thing over the weekend or on leave, that seems like a generally reasonable thing to me.”
“Rushed and flawed”
However, the legislation has faced criticism from business leaders who label it as “rushed and flawed,” particularly in the context of the evolving landscape of flexible working. The Australian chambers of commerce issued a joint statement urging the Senate to carefully reconsider the implications of the bill, emphasising that modern technology has provided flexibility to the workforce, and overly restrictive laws could hinder business owners.
The bill, which includes provisions beyond the “right to disconnect,” such as a clearer pathway from temporary to permanent work and minimum standards for temporary workers and truck drivers, will undergo further scrutiny in the House of Representatives for voting on certain amendments.
While acknowledging the importance of allowing employees to switch off, Bran Black, the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, criticised the legislation, stating, “Business is not opposed to the idea that people should be able to switch off… but you need to be able to make sure that you get these policies right in terms of how they’re implemented and the type of consultation that is required to do that.”
The debate over this legislation reflects the ongoing global discourse on work-life balance, as countries grapple with adapting labour laws to accommodate evolving work patterns and the rise of remote and flexible working.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.