The Right of Workers to Disconnect

by | Mar 2, 2024 | Work | 0 comments

Do you finish a work shift, go home, and then start answering work-related phone calls and emails? This pattern is common for many workers: managers, lawyers, teachers, etc. 
If you get paid for this extra work or otherwise want to do it, you might not feel bothered. But if the home calls and email amount to extra work you don’t want, you might feel resentful and burnt-out. 
The Commonwealth government has enacted a new law that will allow employees to disconnect from work contacts outside their designated work hours.
I like the concept. Too many workers are feeling stressed and nearing burn-out due to what seems like never-ending work. 
I want workers to be able to disconnect from work so they can enjoy relaxing, spending time with loved ones, or engaging in some hobby. Because most of us carry our phone everywhere, after-work messages reach us and seemingly demand a prompt reply. 
Workers who are paid to be on-call are a different story. For them, work contacts might extend to all hours – if that is part of their job. 
As long as workers have about equal bargaining power with the employer, they do not need a law to work things out. But often workers have minimal bargaining power, and feel obliged to extend their work beyond a designated work shift into their home life.  
In our capitalist society, workers are business resources. The more work the business can from an employee, the more money the business makes.
Laws granting the right to disconnect already exist in several other countries. Laws that grant workers the right to disconnect give the workers more power to say no to extra work. They are similar in some ways to laws that set a standard maximum work day or week.
Part of the reasoning for the laws is that businesses and employees are better off in the long run if the employees do not feel exploited or overworked. Employee feelings of exploitation can lead to decreased work satisfaction, reduced productivity, and turnover. 
Whether the new Australian law granting the right to disconnect has positive effects may depend on how employers and employees respond to the law. To the extent that employers and employees both see themselves as powerful and are oriented toward their common good, they can work out reasonable arrangements regarding off-shift work, 
Extra pay might be persuasive in some situations; compensatory time off shift work might suffice in other situations. Agreements to let work wait might be best in some circumstances.


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