The right to disconnect - how much is work creeping into the rest of your life?
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > The right to disconnect – how much is work creeping into the rest of your life?

The right to disconnect – how much is work creeping into the rest of your life?

by Freya Lucas

December 06, 2022

The early childhood education and care (ECEC) is feeling the pressure of staffing shortages, and for many educators and leaders this pressure is leading to a “spill over” into the hours outside of work, be that to catch up on paperwork, respond to calls about people calling in sick, or to attend to tasks that cannot be completed during the work day. 


Recently Australia acknowledged ‘Go Home On Time Day’ which is held annually, and hosted by the Centre for Future Work and the Australia Institute as a “light-hearted effort” to remind Australians of the value of free time – and to shine a spotlight on the “steady, exploitive creep” of work duties into the rest of worker’s lives.


In 2022, the Centre shared new research on the ‘Right to Disconnect‘, a new idea, with growing worldwide momentum, to give workers the explicit right to turn off their smart phones and email for work purposes after normal working hours.


The average Australian employee works an average of six weeks unpaid overtime per year, costing over $92 billion dollars in unpaid wages across the economy. In dollar terms, this means the average worker is losing over $8,000 per year or $315 per fortnight due to “time theft”.


Availability creep – that is, the expectation of SMS messages, phone calls, or emails being attended to outside of working hours – has further eroded the boundaries between work and life. 


Workplace laws, the Centre argues, need to be updated to address this problem, including creating a strong ‘Right to Disconnect’ as recommended recently by the Senate Select Committee into Work & Care. 


Victoria police officers and Queensland teachers have recently won this right through collective bargaining; it should be extended to other workers, including by inclusion in the National Employment Standards.


Theft By Any Other Name: Unsatisfactory Working Hours and Unpaid Overtime, 2022 Update, by Eliza Littleton provides updated statistics on the amount of unpaid overtime worked by Australians, and its aggregate value across the economy.


Call Me Maybe (Not): Working Overtime and A Right To Disconnect in Australia, by Eliza Littleton and Lily Raynes dives deeper into the reasons Australians work so much overtime, and provides an introduction to the rationale for and benefits of a strong ‘Right to Disconnect’.

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