Employee Rights

The Right to Disconnect, Flexibility Requests and Roster Justice

Labour senators Deborah O’Neill, Jana Stewart and Linda White and the Greens’ Barbara Pocock are putting the pressure on Albanese Government to consider making amendments to Requests for Flexible Working Arrangements in s65 of the Fair Work Act 2009.

A 152- page inquiry report was released earlier in October with recommendations the Government should make including the ‘’right to request’’ flexibility in working arrangements to allow employees the right to disconnect from work and ensuring security, predictability and better rostering practices. It also suggests employers be penalised for refusing or failing to accommodate reasonable requests. While s65 of the Fair Work Act says employers may only refuse requests on reasonable business grounds, there are no consequences when they do reject requests. The report recommends that workers have the right to appeal refusal decisions to the Fair Work Commission.

The Labour and Greens parties are promoting the ‘’right to disconnect”, encouraging a healthy work-life balance, that would improve mental health and family relationships. Senator Pocock believes there should be workplace boundaries where people have the right to turn off their phones and not feel obligated to respond to work emails, or deal with work matters out of work hours. Due to increasing technology and the recent pandemic that introduced working from home on a new level, there seems to be a bigger workload, added pressure and higher expectations from employers, not allowing workers to disconnect.

The Senator said that the retail and hospitality industry are greatly affected by poor rostering with last minute changes, with employers expecting workers to commit and attend work regardless of their family life situation. The committee are especially concerned with how this affects people who are juggling work and caring for someone at home.

Another recommendation is that s145A of the Fair Work Act be amended so that employers genuinely consider employees’ feedback on roster changes, building open honest working relationships where workers feel secure in their job and comfortable to voice their thoughts and views.

The report says that ‘’the architecture of work and care is not adequate to our current challenges- let alone our future’’. The final report will be released in mid-February.

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