HR Leader logo
Stay connected.   Subscribe  to our newsletter

The ‘right to disconnect’ war wages on: Should it be incorporated into awards?

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read
The Right To Disconnect War Wages On Should It Be Incorporated Into Awards

Staunch support for and against the upcoming right to disconnect has caused a stir in the workplace. Now, unions are calling for it to be incorporated into modern awards.

Currently, there are stipulations as to who is eligible for consideration under the upcoming laws. According to Fair Work, several factors must be considered when determining whether an employee’s refusal is unreasonable. This includes:

  • The reason for the contact.
  • Whether the employee is compensated for:
    • Being available in the period when contact is made or attempted.
    • Working additional hours outside their ordinary hours of work.
  • The nature of the employee’s role and level of responsibility.
  • The employee’s personal circumstances, including family or caring responsibilities.

Other factors may also apply. These changes are set for 26 August 2024 for non-small-business employers and 26 August 2025 for small-business employees.


The vagueness of the criteria has some concerned over the effectiveness of the laws. Now, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for the Fair Work Commission to incorporate the ‘right to disconnect’ into all awards.

“Unions are arguing that awards clearly set out workers’ rights to have a life outside work. Changes in technology and work arrangements cannot be used to undermine the right to be paid for the work you do and to have the right to disconnect,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.

“Peter Dutton wants Australians to work longer hours for lower wages while they face cost-of-living pressures. The right to disconnect is an important part of addressing [the] cost of living, because people deserve to be paid wages for every hour they work.”

The coalition has vowed to overturn the legislation if re-elected, as Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was asked if he’d repeal the changes, to which he replied, “Yes, we will.”

“We will take a policy that’s in our country’s best interests that provides support to workers but doesn’t make it impossible, particularly for small businesses, to employ staff,” he said.

The ACTU isn’t happy with this election promise, calling the decision “out of touch”.

“Peter Dutton’s promise to take away the right to disconnect shows just how out of touch he is with working Australians. Abolishing this right would worsen the work/life balance of families and create more burnout and stress in people’s lives,” O’Neil said.

“A healthier workplace is a more productive workplace. Establishing a clear separation between work and the rest of our lives is important for improving mental health and enabling all of us to spend quality time with our loved ones. Peter Dutton is more interested in appeasing big business than standing up for everyday Australians who are trying to juggle work and life with the wages they earn.”

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.