The Right to Disconnect

01 May 2024 | Hannah Brewer

Have you heard about the Right to Disconnect?

No? Well, buckle up, because ALL Australian businesses will be affected by the new Fair Work Amendment (Right to Disconnect) Bill 2023 which will be entering workplaces from 26th August 2024, or 26th August 2025 if you’re a small business (under 15 employees).

Having recently enjoyed a very informative round table discussion organised by The Captain’s Table, led by Katherine Stewart of Velocity Legal. A group of recruiters delved into a topic that is far from black and white – we’re talking more 50 shades of grey…

Boundaries, work-life balance, flexibility, hybrid – all extremely common terms in our modern-day work environment (I’m just grateful we’re not throwing around the word ‘pivot’ anymore!).

The Right to Disconnect safeguards personal time and enables employees (and employers for that matter) the right to refuse unreasonable contact and communication outside of their ‘standard’ working hours, from both the employer and third-party affiliations.

However, what is unreasonable we all ask, and does this mean we can’t contact employees outside of business hours?

As a room of high-performing recruiters, none of us would think twice about taking a call outside of hours. If a client needs to calls us at 7pm we accept that’s because they’ve spent the day doing their actual job. As they have engaged us to support them and we are paid on results, then of course we are happy to jump to attention.

It turns out there is no blanket rule, and cases will be reviewed on an individual basis by Fair Work (if it makes it that far) using a multifactor assessment.

Whilst this affects all employees, the employees that you will need to be most cognisant of are those on Award rates and in lower-level roles. In client-facing or senior roles, it’s hard to confine work to a standard day (and this level of role should be remunerated fairly for this).

With all the above in mind, here are the key takeaways that I’ll be discussing with clients during my upcoming recruitment processes…

– If you haven’t already, partner with a good employment lawyer (speak to Katherine!) to review your contracts and ensure your T’s are crossed and your I’s are dotted

– Set expectations clearly and in writing (when recruiting) – make sure your job descriptions are watertight (as we say, every good recruitment process starts with a proper brief)

– Be transparent and upfront about additional hours and overtime with new hires from the beginning of a process – ask them what they are comfortable with

– If your employees are expected to work across time zones and do additional overtime, are they being remunerated adequately?

– Reasonable expectations of junior employees for work required after COB

– You cannot performance manage or dismiss staff members who have submitted a Right to Disconnect case to Fair Work

It’s going to be an interesting few months post-August as a national workforce navigates these changes.

So finally, do I believe that this will massively affect businesses? If you have a driven and hardworking team, then no I honestly don’t. However, I also don’t believe that this is something that companies should turn a blind eye towards. So be informed, know the facts, support your teams and lastly, just don’t be unreasonable!

This is by no means offered as legal advice, purely just a roundup of information that has been shared with me. It’s may also support you to start having conversations in your own business. For more info jump onto the Fair Work website and read more here.

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