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Australian Parliament Passes Right to Disconnect Law Amidst Debate Over Gig Workers’ Rights and Antitrust Concerns

 |  February 12, 2024

The Australian Parliament has approved significant industrial relations reforms, granting employees the long-awaited right to disconnect from work outside of their scheduled shifts. The legislation, which formally passed after endorsement from the House of Representatives, aims to address concerns regarding overwork and the intrusion of work into personal time.

Under the new reforms, workers will now have the legal authority to ignore unreasonable calls and emails when they are not rostered for duty. This fundamental right to disconnect was part of a comprehensive package of measures, which also included enhanced protections for gig workers and provisions allowing casual employees to transition into more secure part-time or full-time roles.

Workplace Minister Tony Burke hailed the reforms as long overdue, emphasizing that employees should not be constantly tethered to their jobs, especially with the ubiquity of mobile phones in modern society. “People have been waiting years for this moment, and it’s time for people to get those rights and to get those rights today,” Burke declared in parliament.

However, opposition figures, including workplace spokesman Paul Fletcher, criticized the legislation, arguing that it was rushed and lacked proper consultation. Concerns were raised about the potential impact on businesses, particularly in emergency situations, with promises to repeal the laws if the opposition secures victory in the next election.

Employer groups echoed these sentiments, warning that the right to disconnect could jeopardize flexible working arrangements essential for balancing work and personal commitments. Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus dismissed these concerns as “typical scaremongering,” emphasizing the importance of establishing boundaries between work and personal life.

Meanwhile, Greens leader Adam Bandt, whose party proposed the right to disconnect changes, expressed satisfaction with the positive reception of the reforms. He highlighted the detrimental effects of work intrusions on family and home life, underscoring the practical and commonsense nature of the new legislation.

The passage of the right to disconnect law reflects a broader shift towards recognizing and safeguarding workers’ rights in an evolving labor landscape.

Source: ABC