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Workers deserve right to switch off when they clock off

19 June 2024 By ASU

The Australian Services Union will today appear at the Fair Work Commissions about implementing the right to disconnect across industries.

The union will urge the Fair Work Commission to include the term “Right to Disconnect” in all modern awards and to give practical guidance to employers on how to deliver the new right in workplaces.

The new right should give workers more control over their personal time – not only ensuring reasonable limits around working times, but also including protection from unfair rostering practices, which require workers to monitor for unplanned roster changes in their personal time.

ASU National Secretary Robert Potter said the union’s recent National Airlines Conference saw 100 delegates endorse their new campaign ‘Standing our Ground’ to address roster justice as part of the right to disconnect.

“We know that the inability to disconnect from work is having serious negative effects on workers' lives, with 72% experiencing poor mental health as a consequence.

“Enshrining the right to disconnect is an opportunity to set the system right for a modern workplace, giving people their lives back.

“Keeping workers on tenterhooks about their roster undermines the right to disconnect. Just in time rostering means workers must constantly monitor their phones in case they miss a shift change, interrupting their personal time.

“Shift changes often come late at night or during rest periods after night shift – this must stop with the right to disconnect.

“Our members have had their shifts changed while on annual leave, sick leave and carers leave. This means that members cannot relax, recuperate or disconnect from work.”

The ASU will use case studies to demonstrate the importance of this issue in the Fair Work consultations. For example, the Airlines Award allows employers to roster workers on night shift for six consecutive days. They are only obliged to give the worker a single day off after 6 nights. Without a right to disconnect, the worker then must spend their day off checking their phone for shift changes on the next day’s work.

“Qantas and Virgin Australia exploit loose rostering rules to make regular, short notice changes to rosters for frontline customer service and operational staff.

“This isn’t about covering sick leave or unexpected absences. Qantas and Virgin use just in time rostering practices to maximise profits at the expense of workers health and wellbeing.

“These are the unreasonable expectations that the right to disconnect was designed to stamp out and we need to make sure the implementation takes account of this practice.

“Big companies like Qantas and Virgin can and should plan their operations so that staff know when they are working well in advance. They should implement practices to minimise disruption to employees recuperating after working.”

Mr Potter said administrative and clerical workers were another example of workforces significantly impacted by the blurring of work and home boundaries.

“Our research shows that 7 in 10 administrative workers take work related calls or check emails outside work hours. People deserve the right to clock off and switch off at the end of their shift.”

The ASU has previously made a submission to the Modern Awards Review seeking an overhaul of the current rostering system in the airline industry and urging the Commission to adopt enhanced protections for workers and correct inequities in the system.

The submission calls for an industry minimum standard to include a minimum 28 days’ forward rostering with a 14-day notice period for changes. It also seeks overtime compensation for work outside the notified roster, greater downtime for workers with a limit of five consecutive workdays without a day’s break, and a daily maximum working time limit of twelve hours.

“We all deserve to spend quality, uninterrupted time with family and friends, care for our loved ones, enjoy hobbies, exercise, and rest, which means clocking off and switching off.”

Contact Details
Name: Rebecca Urban
Telephone: 0411 790 304