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The Right to Disconnect

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The Right to Disconnect

​In an increasingly connected world, striking a balance between work and personal life has become more important than ever. This year, a significant step was taken in Australia with the passing of a new bill granting employees the 'right to disconnect.' This legal change aims to directly address the blurred lines between work and home life that flexible working arrangements have introduced and the ‘always available’ mindset, which can lead to burnout if not managed carefully. In a sector where overworking it’s people can be prevalent, this may be a welcomed reprieve for Lawyers if introduced into NZ.

Understanding the Right to Disconnect

Under this new legislation, employees have the right to refuse to monitor, read, or respond to contacts (or attempted contacts) from their employer or a third party outside of working hours. However, this right to disconnect is not absolute. An employee's refusal to respond may be deemed unreasonable depending on specific circumstances of the working relationship, such as:

• Reason for Contact: The reason behind the contact or attempted contact outside of work hours.

• Mode of Contact: How the contact is made and the level of disruption it causes to the employee's personal life.

• Compensation: The extent to which the employee's remuneration compensates them for remaining available outside of regular working hours.

• Employee's Role: The nature of the employee’s role and their level of responsibility.

• Personal Circumstances: Including family or caring responsibilities that may impact their ability to respond.

This nuanced approach allows for flexibility in its application while safeguarding employees' rights and well-being.

Challenges for Global Organisations

The right to disconnect can present unique challenges for employees in global firms or organisations who may be required to participate in after-hours calls across different time zones. Another consideration in the legal sector is the potential impact on client service and expectations regarding contact outside of business hours.

Will New Zealand Follow Suit?

The question remains whether New Zealand will adopt similar legislation in the near future. Such laws could be seen as an extension of existing employer obligations to ensure the psychosocial safety of workers. Similar "disconnection" rights already exist in other countries, such as Spain and France.

As we continue to navigate this new era of work-life integration the team of recruiters at CoLegal can help secure you a legal role within an employer who prioritises sustainable work habits.