You Have the Right to Disconnect: Employees Are Being Freed From 24/7 Digital Availability

right to disconnect

When it comes to rights, police are often the ones reciting them — and now, they’ve received one of their own (no, they did not fight for their right to party, Beastie Boys style). Through their union’s most recent negotiations, Victoria Police staff have won the right to disconnect.

What is the ‘right to disconnect’? Essentially, it’s being freed from the “digital leash” — which, according to ABC News is the compulsion to answer calls, texts and emails out of hours.

According to UNI Global Union, this current constant connection — and the ensuing lack of rest (and lack of work-life balance) — that many of us experience without the right to disconnect, carries “important psychosocial risk for employees, including anxiety, depression and burnout.”

This hard-won right directs managers to “respect leave and rest days” along with avoiding contacting officers outside of work hours. They may only be contacted outside of hours if it’s an emergency, or to check in on their welfare. As for what constitutes an emergency in police terms? “Bushfire, pandemic, terrorist attack or similar event.”

This move isn’t unheard of outside of Victoria Police, however.

The right to disconnect is part of France’s legislation and took effect in 2017. According to SHRM, French policymakers consider off-duty email use to be “a health and safety concern”, and the codified Labor article requires employers to negotiate with unions, to attempt to “agree on processes governing off-hours connection”.

The Philippines also created a similar bill in the same year; and as recently as last December, did European Union lawmakers vote in favour of the right to disconnect.

In Australia, it doesn’t seem that there is a push to incorporate something country-wide — but unions outside of the Victoria Police are pushing for the right to disconnect.

HRM, the news site of the Australia HR Institute, states that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has proposed for the right to disconnect in their charter. Liquid HR managing director Nicholas Vayenas told HRM that workplaces should focus on building a culture of disconnecting and having downtime and that the right to disconnect is a “moral obligation for employers.”

How you, personally, can start? Leave your work computer at work if you’re currently in an office. Working from home? Designate one drawer in your house for your laptop, and place it in there outside of work hours — and leave it there. Also, try deleting work apps off of your personal phone and laptop to create a firm boundary.

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