Pushing right to disconnect through parliament a recipe for disaster

“Industry remains understandably anxious about what any proposed ‘right to disconnect’ could look like. It is crucial that any proposal being considered by the Federal Government is made public as quickly as possible so that industry can genuinely consider what impact it will have and it can be robustly considered by the Parliament,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

“Pushing a last-minute proposal through Parliament that deals with a significant and novel matter that hasn’t been the subject of reasonable scrutiny would be a recipe for disaster. On any reasonable assessment this isn’t a sensible or responsible way to develop our workplace laws.

“An obvious risk is that an ill-thought out or heavy-handed approach will hurt both employers and employees. There is an obvious risk that it could perversely discourage employers from offering additional paid work to employees who might want it. That will just hurt employee incomes.

“Until we see details there will continue to be a raft of fundamental questions and concerns about how any such proposal might work. What we certainly don’t want to see is another complicated and unclear workplace law that employers need to navigate for fear of being hit with penalties if they make a mistake.

“Parliament also needs to consider why this is even necessary, given the Fair Work Act already places limits on the hours that an employer can require an employee to work and gives employees a right to refuse to undertake unreasonable hours. If there are concerns that these laws aren’t being followed we need to look at educating people about them and enforcing them, rather than simply introducing a further layer of impractical regulation.

“In many awards and agreements there are also longstanding provisions dealing with circumstances where employees may be contacted outside of working hours. Often this reflects the fact that in some sectors and fields of work people need to be contacted outside of regular hours. We certainly wouldn’t want to see any new requirement override these existing arrangements that are often working well and are well understood and supported by both employees and employers.

“Many employees, particularly senior employees, are paid a salary that includes the possibility that they will be contacted outside of their core hours. This also needs to be taken into account,” Mr Willox said.

The European Union (EU) defines the right to disconnect as “a worker’s right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails or other messages, during non-work hours”. The Government is yet to publicly confirm how broad any new right to disconnect might be.

/Public Release. View in full here.