Purposeful or lazy discussion of Right-To-Disconnect and Working-From-Home?

There is a curious development in the current discussion in Australia about the newly introduced Right-To-Disconnect (RTD). Many are conflating RTD with Working From Home (WFH) – two separate but slightly overlapping changes to the world of work – which is impeding valid and necessary discussion.

Working From Home largely emerged as a response to the coronavirus pandemic and used flimsy work structures to provide business continuity. The WFH arrangements would have been unlikely to have been so widespread without the federal government’s investment in the National Broadband Network and the commercial growth in mobile phone communication infrastructure. However, that same infrastructure and investment have contributed to the problem that Right-To-Disconnect is intended to address.

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Right-To-Disconnect changes need a strategy for acceptance

On February 11, 2024, the Insiders program had a curious discussion on the Right-To-Disconnect. Different generational perspectives, industry perspectives, and a curious denial were present.

Last week, the Australian Parliament passed workplace relations legislation that included a Right-To-Disconnect.

Insiders’ host, David Speers, asked Jacob Greber of the Australian Financial Review to explain the probable workplace changes (it was a poor summary):

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The “Right to Disconnect” should have been “Obligation-To-Leave-Workers-Alone”

The Australian Greens announced on February 7, 2024, that the Right-To-Disconnect (RTD) bill would pass Parliament as part of workplace relations reforms. On February 8, 2024, the mainstream media wrote as if the laws had already been passed. However, several issues with these laws indicate they are unlikely to be applied in practice as widely as advocates claim and in the way anticipated.

The closer the RTD laws come to reality, the more useless they appear.

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Inaccuracies in AAP article on truck-related fatalities and penalty

Denise Zumpe is an Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) professional who focuses on workplace health and safety matters in the transport sector. Below is a letter that she intended to send to The Age and writer Esther Linder outlining some inaccuracies in an Australian Associated Press article (paywalled) concerning the jailing of Cris Large, a court case discussed in an earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog article.

“A former transport executive has been jailed for up to three years for his reckless workplace behaviour in the lead-up to a crash that killed four police officers on Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway.”

The AAP article appeared in a number of Australian media. An amended version appeared on ABC News.


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The sleeper IR issue of the Right-to-Disconnect wakes up

This week, the Australian Parliament debates further workplace relations legislative system changes. These will have occupational health and safety (OHS) impacts, usually indirectly; however, one clear OHS element in the proposed legislation is the Right-to-Disconnect.

This change has been a long time coming and has clear and proven mental health and social benefits for workers, but you won’t hear much of the OHS justification in the media. Most of the business opposition has been alarmist noise claiming the world will end. According to the Australian Financial Review (AFR) editorial on February 1 2024. Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke:

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A curious omission from NY Times well-being article in The Age

Another article reporting on Dr William Fleming’s workplace wellness research appeared recently in the New York Times, reproduced in some Australian newspapers like The Age (not available online). Newspapers are entitled to edit other newspaper’s articles for many reasons. Most tweaks are legitimate, but, in this case, The Age dropped an entire paragraph, which does not reflect the balance of the full NYTimes article.

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Call for Industrial Manslaughter laws after more unnecessary deaths

It was inevitable that all States in Australia would end up with Industrial Manslaughter (IM) penalties related to occupational health and safety (OHS). Tasmania is the latest to start the consultation on these laws, and again, it has required a work-related tragedy to generate the outrage that seems required for such a push.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting on the grief and outrage of Georgie Burt, one of the parents of

“….one of six children who died when a jumping castle became airborne at an end-of-year celebration at Hillcrest Primary School in Devonport in 2021.”

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