The AFPA has been at the forefront of the drive to include a Right to Disconnect into any Enterprise Agreement covering our members. It now appears that the Government are taking this crucial right seriously, with Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke making a deal with crossbench senators and including the Right to Disconnect in the Closing Loopholes (No 2) legislation, which was passed by the Senate on 8 February and the lower house on Monday 12 February.

The deal will give workers the right to ignore unreasonable calls and messages, combined with a ban on a penalty for the worker disengaging, however employers will be subjected to civil remedy provisions if they do contact an employee unreasonably.

The Australian Greens were integral in getting the Right to Disconnect included in the bill, and Senator Barbara Pocock had previously listed the Right to Disconnect as one of the seven significant issues requiring legislative attention. Senator Pocock stated that the proposed form of the Right to Disconnect had undergone several modifications after engaging with unions and employers, but the primary objective of these changes was to grant workers the ability to decline unfair contact.

The Fair Work Commission is also seeking feedback on the possible incorporation into modern awards of key recommendations of the recent Senate work and care inquiry, including rights to work from home and to disconnect from the workplace.

With both the Government and the Fair Work Commission giving workers the Right to Disconnect, we call upon the AFP to incorporate such a right into the new Enterprise Agreement. The AFPA has made this one of its key demands in the current enterprise bargaining, and, given the Liberal Party’s statement that it will repeal the change if elected at the next federal election, it is essential that it is incorporated into the next Enterprise Agreement. Our claim is that members be granted the Right to Disconnect as per the following terms:

  • The Right to Disconnect outside working hours, where supervisors and managers must respect members’ periods of leave and rest days;
  • Other than in emergency situations or genuine welfare matters, a member must not be contacted outside of the member’s hours of work unless the member is in receipt of an on-call allowance;
  • Where it is deemed necessary to contact a member, the affected member will be entitled to be compensated as if they had been recalled to duty for the minimum of 2.5 hours at the overtime rate;
  • Where a member is contacted while on personal/carer’s leave or maternity leave, the member shall be compensated; and
  • Members must not be required to read or respond to emails or phone calls outside their working hours.

A Right to Disconnect has never been more relevant than in today’s age, with the AFP expecting members to be available around the clock. A recent report, “Short Changed: Unsatisfactory working hours and unpaid overtime”, found that full-time employees gave an average of 6.2 hours of unpaid overtime per week. For a band 4.2 without composite, this would equate to almost $13,000 per year or eight weeks of unpaid work.

We want to remind everyone that there is no obligation to answer an email, text message, or phone call out of hours unless you are in receipt of an appropriate allowance. The Right to Disconnect recognises the importance of work-life balance and mental health, and the AFPA will continue to advocate for boundaries between work and all members’ personal lives.

Members deserve nothing less.