She said certain jobs necessitated out-of-hours contact, including her own. “What’s reasonable in a retail sector will be very different from what’s reasonable in a hospital,” she said.
The right to disconnect is already law in countries such as France and Germany and has been included in police and teacher enterprise agreements in Australia. Employment experts have likened it to working-from-home rights as employees seek better conditions to suit pervasive online communication.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Wednesday the right to disconnect was already available in many companies.
“What we’re simply saying is someone who’s not being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalised if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day,” he said.
But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar labelled the condition “a silly idea”.
“Of course we need to have balance … but the idea that you can regulate for commonsense through legislation like this is fundamentally flawed. We don’t support it. We think that that is something that again is only going to add to complexity and increase the risk of litigation in the future,” he said.
“It’s going to become a matter of disputation in some cases, so where the employment relationship is already breaking down, this is something where we’re going to see more claims in the Fair Work Commission.”
Burke last year struck the deal with the Greens to include the right to disconnect and bolster the rights of employees in drawn-out wage disputes to pass the second tranche of his Closing Loopholes legislation, which gives minimum rights and pay to digital platform workers and defines casual work to prevent the rights of casuals being abused.
The make-up of the Senate means two more votes were needed to pass the bill, with the government in negotiations with crossbench senators over a series of tweaks to the legislation.
Thorpe, now an independent, declared on Wednesday morning she had given her support in return for greater protections for casuals, but did not provide details.
“It is important to improve workers’ protections, especially for those in the most insecure and underpaid sectors, and to create more supportive and sustainable working conditions for everyone. This will ultimately benefit everyone,” Thorpe wrote on social media platform X.
The government had been negotiating with David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie, who on Wednesday morning said she was against both of the Greens’ amendments, adding she didn’t believe the right for employees to ignore contact from their bosses after hours should be legislated.
“Sometimes you really worry that when it comes to the Greens they go into complete overreach,” Lambie said during a press conference in Parliament House.
But David Pocock told ABC’s RN Breakfast workers “clearly” wanted the right not to have to respond to unreasonable contact from their bosses when away from the office.
“Clearly, there’s a whole range of scenarios where it is totally reasonable if someone’s offering you a shift for the next day, or if it’s an emergency or something to do with workplace health and safety,” he said.
“But this [is] simply enshrining the right that if you have clocked off and you do not think it’s reasonable, you don’t have to respond, and then your employer cannot hold that against you, or use that against you.”
Pocock is continuing to negotiate with the government on the broader industrial reforms, which are already being debated in the Senate.