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Senate crossbencher David Pocock introduced significant amendments to the Bill. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman

Teachers now have a “right to disconnect”

Teachers will have the right to refuse to respond to emails or phone calls from colleagues, parents or students outside of school hours thanks to the new Closing Loopholes Bill.

The workplace laws, passed earlier this month, give millions of workers legal ground to stand on if an employer persistently contacts them at inappropriate hours.

Workers will be able to take their employer to the Fair Work Commission to stop them unreasonably contacting them outside of work hours, and bosses could face fines if they persist.

Education bodies have welcomed the changes as the combination of an understaffed teacher workforce and increased technology use has made it harder to switch off.

The Queensland and Northern Territory Independent Education Union (IEU) said the laws were a major win for its members.

“Employer requests, parental queries and student contact regularly encroach on the personal time of staff,” Qld/NT secretary Terry Burke said.

“With the growth of mobile technology and assumed 24/7 connectivity, critical workload and work intensification issues have only been exacerbated.

“Employees need a break from work and are entitled to valuable downtime."

According to the Australia Institute, 79 per cent of full-time workers in Australia have worked outside of scheduled hours, adding up to 280 hours of free work every year. 

After Labor secured a deal with the Greens, independent senator Lidia Thorpe and ACT senator David Pocock pledged their support towards Labor’s Closing Loopholes Bill.

Senator Pocock’s support came with significant amendments, namely stronger protections and greater rights for casual employees and gig workers, improved road safety and a strengthened Greens’ proposal for a right to disconnect.

“The changes the crossbench has negotiated make it a much simpler, fairer bill that preserves choice and flexibility,” Senator Pocock said.

He said his amendments on the right to disconnect further strengthened the original proposal put forward by the Greens in exchange for their support.

“Rather than an outright prohibition on employers contacting their employees, workers now have a right not to monitor or respond to unreasonable contact outside of work hours where they aren’t compensated for this,” Senator Pocock said.

The federal opposition and some business bodies have pushed back against the new legislation, concerned small businesses might not have the resources to keep up with the Bill's requirements.

The laws offer better protection for casual workers, ensuring those who work regular and predictable shifts are offered a permanent role after six months, or 12 months if they work at a small business.

Independent Jacqui Lambie said the laws are an overreach.

“Nobody has ever spoken to me in the 10 years I’ve been in and out of politics about phone calls after hours – not one person,” the senator told ABC Radio.

“I just think if there’s not a problem, why are we trying to fix it?”

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One comment

  1. Too late for me. I was on a full time contract last year and nothing this year. Should I have been offered one of the many full time jobs vacant?

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