The Australian government has passed new legislation granting workers the “right to disconnect” from work communications during non-work hours, aimed at helping employees maintain a healthier work-life balance.
The Seattle Times reports that Australia has become one of the first countries to pass a comprehensive “right to disconnect” law, which will make it illegal for employers to penalize workers who don’t respond to messages outside of specified work hours. The legislation, which takes effect in March, establishes that employees cannot be compelled to respond to emails, texts or calls outside of their normal work hours, which are typically 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The law is aimed at addressing an increasingly blurred line between work and personal time driven by the proliferation of smartphones. A recent study found that more than half of Australians regularly work outside their contracted hours, contributing to higher stress and burnout.
“Employees should be able to switch off outside of work hours and enjoy their private time without emails and other communications interrupting them constantly,” said Australia’s Minister for Industrial Relations, Tony Burke. The legislation requires companies with more than 15 staff members to establish a policy outlining when employees are entitled to disconnect.
Unions have applauded the new protections. Gerard Dwyer, national secretary of the Australian Services Union, stated that the law is “a game changer that will help millions of workers.” However, some business groups argue the regulations could reduce productivity and flexibility.
The “right to disconnect” builds on other progressive labor policies introduced in Australia, such as domestic violence leave. With remote work on the rise globally, other countries are considering similar rules to help maintain work-life balance in the digital era.
Read more at the Seattle Times here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.