SYDNEY, Australia — Australia will introduce laws giving workers the right to ignore unreasonable calls and messages from their bosses outside of work hours without penalty, with potential fines for employers that breach the rule.
The “right to disconnect” is part of a raft of changes to industrial relations laws proposed by the federal government under a parliamentary bill, which it says would protect workers’ rights and help restore work-life balance.
Similar laws giving employees a right to switch off their devices are already in place in France, Spain and other countries in the European Union.
A majority of senators have now declared support for the legislation, Employment Minister Tony Burke from the ruling center-left Labor party said in a statement on Wednesday.
The provision stops employees from working unpaid overtime through a right to disconnect from unreasonable contact out of hours, Burke said.
“What we are simply saying is that someone who isn’t being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalized if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters earlier on Wednesday.
The bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament this week.
The bill also includes other provisions like a clearer pathway from temporary to permanent work and minimum standards for temporary workers and truck drivers.
Some politicians, employer groups and corporate leaders warned that the right to disconnect provision was an overreach and would undermine the move toward flexible working and affect competitiveness.
The left-wing Greens, which supports the rule and was the first to propose it last year, said it was a big win for the party. A deal had been reached between Labor, smaller parties and independents to support this bill, Greens leader Adam Bandt said on X.
“Australians work an average of six weeks unpaid overtime each year,” Bandt said.
That equated to more than A$92 billion ($60.13 billion) in unpaid wages across the economy, he added.
“That time is yours. Not your boss’.”