Right to Disconnect

Amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 see the implementation of the Right to Disconnect legislation. The new legislation means that eligible employees are not required to monitor, read, or respond to work communication outside of their normal working hours. Continue reading to find out how this will impact your business.

Amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 see the implementation of the Right to Disconnect legislation. This legislation will come into effect on 26 August 2024 for employers with more than 15 employees and one year later on 26 August 2025 for small business with less than 15 employees. The new legislation means that eligible employees are not required to monitor, read, or respond to work communication outside of their normal working hours. Continue reading to find out how this will impact your business.

Can employers send emails outside of working hours?

The new legislation does not mean there will be penalties for sending emails outside of working hours. What it does mean is employees can exercise the right to not respond. Notwithstanding this, there may be cases where it is considered ‘reasonable’ to seek a response, such as when there is a provision in the employment contract or on call service are provided. In these cases, the employee must be compensated accordingly.

There will also be occasions when employees are contacted out of work hours to discuss changes to rosters, working hours or due to operational requirements that can not wait until the employee returns to work.

It is best practice to not send a barrage of emails to employees outside of normal working hours and it is important for employees and employers alike to have recreational time away from work.

What about communication with third party stakeholders?

The same rule above applies. An employee has the right to not respond to clients, customers, or external stakeholders outside of normal working hours. This may become difficult for employers who engage with international clientele and clear communication will need to be distributed to these parties to ensure they are aware of the legislation changes in Australia.

How will this impact flexible work arrangements?

Concerns have been raised that the new legislation will have a negative impact on the progression of flexible work practices. It is important to note that the Right to Disconnect legislation can compliment organisational agreements, such as working flexibility to manage childcare arrangements. It an employee chooses to work outside of their work hours due to other commitments, they should utilise the scheduling email message function, so their working arrangement doesn’t disrupt others.

The legislation means an employee’s time outside of the workplace, should not be unreasonably interrupted with inappropriate work expectations.

How can you prepare for the changes?

For businesses with more than 15 employees it is necessary to start preparing for the change in legislation now. Firstly, a business needs to understand their responsibilities under the new legislation and ensure the changes are clearly and effectively communicated to employees. It is imperative that there is a whole of business understanding of what the new legislation entails, which starts with management and trickles down to base level staff.

To further prepare, it is recommended that an audit of work hours across the business is conducted, which includes reviewing hours of work and employment contacts where necessary. Additionally, it may be necessary to develop communication protocols or update existing policies and procedures.

There is a need for managers to proactively monitor and curb their out of working hours communication. This will set a positive example for employees and instil healthy work practices.

While there is still over a year before small businesses need to adhere to the legislation changes, it is recommended that the Right to Disconnect legislation is incorporated into work practices and expectations for all businesses.

Need some help auditing your employment contracts? Reach out to Eve at HRTAS today on eve@hrtas.com or phone 0401 785 529

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