With the new Right to Disconnect legislation set to commence on 26 August 2024, there are some common misconceptions about what the changes will mean for businesses. Employers need to be proactive and update their processes to be compliant with the new legislation and with this in mind, it is important to dispel myths to ensure the changes are implemented correctly.

Myth # 1 – Employers can no longer contact employees after work hours

The idea that employers will no longer be able to contact employees outside of normal working hours at all is not necessarily true. There may be instances where it is reasonable to contact an employee after hours and expect a response, such as if there is a specific provision in their employment contract or the worker is on call. However, in the instance that a manager sends an email during out of office hours, the employee has the right not to respond and cannot be penalised for it.

Employers may also contact employees out of hours to discuss changes to shift times or any other operational notices that cannot wait until the following work day, such as notice of an office closure. The Right to Disconnect legislation itself sets out matters to be considered when determining reasonableness.

Myth # 2 – This rule only applies to employers

The Right to Disconnect does not just apply to employers, it also includes communication from third parties such as clients or customers of the business in which the employee is working. Basically, it is the exact same right for an employee to be able to disconnect or not respond to communication from a client or customer outside of normal working hours.

Myth # 3 – Only employees can raise a dispute

Not only does the Right to Disconnect legislation apply to employers sending after hours communication, but also to employees and how they exercise their rights. Where an employee may raise a concern that they have not been afforded the Right to Disconnect or they have been treated adversely because of it, an employer may raise a dispute that an employee has incorrectly exercised their right and that they are required to respond to these types of communication because, for example, they are on call or it is included in their employment contract.

In these instances, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) will have to decide whether or not to grant a stop order. If an order is granted, and the behaviour is continued from either party, that is when civil penalties could come into effect for employers or disciplinary actions for employees.

Myth # 4 – It will mean the end of flexibility

Some businesses feel the Right to Disconnect legislation is a step in the wrong direction when it comes to flexibility at work. To account for the different working environments, it is suggested that disconnection agreements should instead be made at the organisational level. It is important that the Right to Disconnect should operate alongside flexible work practices.

The Right to Disconnect legislation is not restricting employees who choose to work in the evening or on weekends to account for flexibility elsewhere in their week. It simply means utilising the ‘schedule message’ function so an employee’s preferred working hours do not interrupt another employee’s preferred down time.

How can I prepare my employees for the changes?

As a first step, employers should start by conducting an audit of current work hours and communication needs. It is important to understand what the normal working hours of employees are, and then generate a Right to Disconnect policy in consideration of these. The key is to ensure that employees are clear on what it means to exercise their Right to Disconnect, and what it does not mean.

Employers should also consider the following:

  • Create a process for on-call allowances and overtime pay for the circumstances that require employees to be contacted outside of normal working hours.
  • Identify what might constitute reasonable out-of-hours communications, such as needing to change shift times or communicate about work locations.
  • Ensure managers lead by example by modelling the right behaviour and habits around emails and phone calls out-of-hours.
  • Clearly outline communication guidelines to clients and customers.

If you need assistance navigating the upcoming “right to disconnect” changes in your workplace, get in touch with our team who can assist. Find our articles helpful? Remember to follow us on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn to keep up to date with our practical tips and information for business owners and managers.