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Australians Could Soon Get The ‘Right To Disconnect’ After They Finish Work

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Australians Could Soon Get The ‘Right To Disconnect’ After They Finish Work

A new rule has been introduced into Victoria Police's enterprise agreement that forbids officers being contacted outside of work hours.

We've all been there when your manager sends a little message while you're on the bus ride home or cooking dinner asking you about something that needs to be done.

That moment was magnified last year during lockdown when we had nothing to do and had our work-related technology was at the tip of our fingertips.

But now Victoria Police officers will be able to enjoy their life outside their job without the fear of getting that message or call.

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The 'right to disconnect' was won in the union's most recent negotiations and ensures bosses leave employees alone on their days off as well as before and after a shift.

The only time they're allowed to be contacted is in the event of a disaster like bushfire or flood, an issue that is extremely important like a terrorist attack, or to check on their welfare.

Credit: Victoria Police/Facebook
Credit: Victoria Police/Facebook

Sergeant Rachel Dunkinson, who works in the mounted police unit, told the ABC this will be revolutionary for the staff who never seem to disconnect from the job.

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"I don't know anyone that doesn't walk away from a day at work, when they've done (a big job) and it's not on their mind, in their thinking about it," she said to the national broadcaster.

"So then to get a call at home because of something that needs to be chased up, or something that they just want to continue on while you're not there, it's just an added stress.

"Then you just can't forget about it for the rest of the day, and quite often these are things that can probably be left to the following day or when you're next back at work."

The question now begs: will other unions try to bring in similar rules to protect their staff?

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Some of Australia's biggest trade unions have looked at the deal struck with Victoria Police as a sign it could be drawn up in other industries.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus believes it's essential to have a 'right to disconnect' rule at work to help everyone's mental health.

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

"It is essential that working people be able to disconnect," she said. "This is especially important for people who perform psychologically stressful work.

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"If work invades all hours of your life and you cannot disconnect, it is a recipe for serious problems for both the worker and the employer."

Workplaces that have 24-hour revolving staff like hospitals or newsrooms would be best placed for a 'right to disconnect' rule as there would always be a staff member to pick up the issue at hand.

However, concerns have been raised about whether it would halt progress in other areas.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's acting chief executive Jenny Lambert said some workplaces can't just stop after 5pm.

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"Whilst a right to disconnect may be well-intentioned, it is unlikely to be welcomed by many employees, including those who prefer to deal with work and communication in a way that suits their personality," Ms Lambert argued.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Topics: Australia

Stewart Perrie
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