Australian Greens Senators' additional comments

Australian Greens Senators' additional comments

1.1On behalf of the Greens, I want to thank the Committee, the Chair, and the individuals and organisations for submitting to this inquiry. I would like to add my support to the position of the Chair's report.

1.2The Greens support the amendment introduced by the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2024. The bill amends the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act) so that contraventions of Fair Work Commission orders related to the right to disconnect are exempt from criminal penalties. It was never the intention to impose criminal penalties under the Greens' proposed new right to disconnect provisions.

1.3This bill makes this clear by amending section 675(2) of the Fair Work Act to provide that contravening an order under Division 6 of Part 2-9 would not be an offence under subsection 675(1) of the Fair Work Act. This change will ensure that the treatment of Fair Work Commission stop orders related to the right to disconnect are consistent with the treatment of other stop orders in the Act, including sexual harassment and bullying orders.

1.4The right to disconnect has been a long-time campaign and demand of the Greens. The Select Committee on Work and Care, which I chaired, took extensive evidence about the changing nature of work in Australia, and recommended that a right to disconnect be introduced in the Fair Work Act (October 2022 and March 2023). The Greens also introduced private member's bills proposing right to disconnect provisions.

1.5Following months of negotiations with the government and crossbench, the Greens secured support for our right to disconnect amendment, and the new provision passed both Houses of Parliament on 12 February 2024.

1.6The Greens urge that the proposed amendment in this bill be passed to ensure the effective operation of the new right to disconnect provisions.

1.7The Greens amendments to the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No. 2) Bill 2023 gives employees an enforceable right to refuse contact from their employer out of hours unless that refusal is unreasonable. Where the issue cannot be resolved at the workplace, the Fair Work Commission can issue stop orders. If they are breached, the normal civil remedies of our workplace relations system apply. The Fair Work Commission will also have the role of ensuring that each modern award has a term providing for the exercise of the new right.

1.8Professor Andrew Stewart writes that this aspect of the amendment 'should enable more detailed and, where appropriate, sector-specific guidance to be offered as to when it might be reasonable to refuse or not respond to contact, or the compensation that might be offered for an employee to be available outside of working hours or (where relevant) to perform additional work'.[1]

1.9The new right to disconnect provisions address the widespread and growing problem of availability creep—the unpaid overtime resulting from the creeping demands of technology.

1.10According to a 2022 report by the Centre for Future Work, 71 per cent of workers had worked outside their scheduled work hours often due to overwork or pressure from managers.[2]

1.11The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Australian Services Union (ASU) found 'nearly 1 in 4 workers feeling that they will be disciplined if they do not answer calls and/or monitor emails outside of work and half of them feeling that their career will be negatively affected'.[3]

1.12This right will make a real difference for millions of Australian workers and their families who need some backup when they want to say no to 24/7 contact from their workplace.

1.13Always being contactable—in the evening, on the weekend and while on holiday (without compensation)—has huge social, economic, and health consequences for workers, their families and the economy more broadly.

1.14Associate Professor Chris F. Wright writes that 'the negative impacts of availability creep are especially acute for certain groups of workers. Those on insecure contracts lack the power to resist employer requests to work outside of standard work hours. Those with unpaid care responsibilities are likely to experience intensified work/life balance. A right to disconnect provides a solution to these challenges'.[4]

1.15While employer groups and the Coalition oppose the right to disconnect in Australia, evidence clearly shows there are benefits to reinforcing the boundaries between work and non-working lives.

1.16The ACTU documents benefits of a right to disconnect including enabling workers with children to spend uninterrupted quality time with their families and improvements to productivity. For example, 'it could encourage disorganised bosses to be better organised—rather than relying on staff to respond to poorly timed contact, and it would help workers get the rest they need to be more productive when actually working'.[5]

1.17The right to disconnect already has precedents in Australia—'at least 56 enterprise agreements currently operating in Australia contain such a right. This includes agreements covering teachers, police officers and various banks and financial institutions'.[6]

1.18It is no wonder then that '84 per cent of Australians have previously supported the right to disconnect'.[7]

1.19The Greens right to disconnect amendment is clear, practical, and reasonable. This right is long overdue in Australia, and it will make a difference for workers who are not paid for being available and who donate many unpaid hours to their workplace. We support this amendment as proposed to ensure the effective and appropriate operation of this right. Senator Michaelia Cash's amendment 2415 would have the effect of repealing the right to disconnect. The Greens strongly oppose this amendment.

Senator Barbara Pocock

Participating member

Senator for South Australia

Senator Mehreen Faruqi


Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens

Senator for New South Wales


[1]Professor Andrew Stewart, Submission 1, pp. 1–2.

[2]Associate Professor Chris F. Wright, Submission 7, p. 2.

[3]Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Submission 5, p. 2.

[4]Associate Professor Chris F. Wright, Submission 7, p. 2.

[5]ACTU, Submission 5, p. 4.

[6]Associate Professor Chris F. Wright, Submission 7, p. 2.

[7]ACTU, Submission 5, p. 5.