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Dutton declines to answer calls for a work life balance

By Jacqueline King, General Secretary, Queensland Council of Unions

right to disconnect2Recently-passed laws will give workers a right to disconnect from unreasonable contact out of work hours and performing unpaid overtime.

Workers will also be protected from adverse action being taken against them if they don’t respond to that late night email, or answer their mobile at their kid’s footy game. Importantly, the new laws also recognise that contact can still be made in emergency situations.

However, if an employee is expected to be on call out of hours they should be paid for that, otherwise it’s unpaid overtime and alarmingly, another form of wage theft.

This approach is  fair and balanced and acknowledges that workers need to balance their work and family lives, including to protect their psychological safety which is a work health and safety right.

Recent polling shows solid public support, with almost 60 percent supporting the right to disconnect and only 15 percent against.

Several European countries have also put laws in place to allow employees to disconnect. And a number of enterprise agreements covering police in Queensland and Victoria also provide that right.

So it’s too bad Queenslanders can’t hang up on Peter Dutton and the big business lobby who are complaining and pledging to repeal them if elected. Their shrill reaction demonstrates how little they understand or respect the need to balance work and life. As a former police officer, it also shows how out of touch Peter Dutton has become from every day Queenslanders.

Workplaces function best when there is ongoing and open dialogue between employers and employees about their working hours, workloads, and a balance between work and life.

Instead of playing politics with workers’ rights, the LNP Opposition leader should heed the call to ensure workplaces have arrangements that suit them, including the right to disconnect.