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With the implementation of the “Right to Disconnect” law, small to medium businesses must prepare for changes in managing employee communications outside standard working hours. This legislation takes effect on 26 August 2024 for non-small business employers and on 26 August 2025 for small business employers, marking a significant shift in workplace relations.

Overview of the “Right to Disconnect”

The “Right to Disconnect” allows employees to refuse contact outside regular working hours. This includes emails, calls, texts, or work-related messaging. Employees are not required to engage in work-related communications during their time unless such refusal is deemed unreasonable based on specific criteria.

Employers must assess several factors to determine if an employee’s refusal to engage outside working hours is unreasonable:

  • Urgency and reason for contact: Can the matter wait until the next working day?
  • Compensation for availability: Is the employee compensated for being available or working additional hours?
  • Role and responsibilities: Does the role require flexibility in availability?
  • Personal circumstances: Are there family or caring responsibilities to consider?

Compliance Requirements

By 26 August 2024, all awards must include a “right to disconnect term” explaining how this right applies across different industries and occupations.

What Employers Need to Do

Employers should review employment contracts and position descriptions to ensure that working hours, availability, and remuneration clauses align with the new legislation. Additionally, updating policies and procedures governing after-hours communication is essential to respect the new right to disconnect. Training is crucial; therefore, managers and employees must be educated on the new law’s implications. Managers should understand the legal boundaries, and employees should know their rights.

To address potential conflicts, employers must establish a procedure for resolving disputes related to the right to disconnect. If internal resolution fails, the Fair Work Commission can enforce compliance. This comprehensive approach ensures that businesses are well-prepared to adapt to the new regulations while maintaining a productive and respectful workplace.

Potential Challenges and Enforcement

Employers must not take adverse action against an employee who reasonably refuses contact outside working hours. Non-compliance can lead to civil penalties, similar to other areas regulated by the Fair Work Act.

Preparing for Compliance

The “Right to Disconnect” law promotes better work-life balance. Employers must review current practices, contractual obligations, and workplace culture. Assess the necessity of after-hours contact and consider the impact on employees’ personal lives versus their remuneration. Open a dialogue with employees about their preferences for being reached outside work hours.

AFP Accounting & Advisory is ready to assist businesses in adapting to these changes, ensuring compliance with the new law and maintaining a healthy, productive working environment. Contact us to ensure compliance before the new law is enforced.

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