The Right to Disconnect: Fact vs Fiction

The Right to Disconnect legislation is addressing the blurring lines between work and personal life.

Can there be too much connectivity?

This question is one that’s been raised with more and more frequency in today’s digital age. We’ve gotten used to always being connected. From the invention of portable devices like laptops that paved the way to people working while outside their usual offices, to the arrival of smartphones that let us answer emails while on the morning commute, we live in a world of constant connectivity.

This can have its downsides—the culture of ‘always being on’ when it comes to work can, over time, affect one’s mental well-being.

This issue is what the Right to Disconnect law attempts to address. In February, Australia passed the Right to Disconnect law. This new legislation is the government’s response to concerns about work-related mental health issues, highlighted in Safe Work Australia’s February 2024 report.

Since its passing, numerous questions have been swirling around this legislation. What does this legislation mean for both employers and employees? What does it entail and how will it impact the modern workplace? In this article, we’ll go through the misconceptions around the Right to Disconnect legislation and lay out the facts.


What is the Right to Disconnect legislation?

The Fair Work Ombudsman defines the right to disconnect as the right to refuse contact outside of working hours unless that refusal is unreasonable. According to Fair Work, this means that an employee can refuse to monitor, read or respond to contact from an employer or a third party.

This right applies to any form of communication, including emails, calls, texts, or any work-related messaging platforms.

This change starts on 26 August 2024 for non-small business employers, and on 26 August 2025 for small business employers.


Fact vs Fiction #1: Penalties for employers

Fact: Employees will have the right to refuse employer or third-party contact outside of office hours. Under the law, employers are prohibited from contacting employees after hours.

Fiction: This doesn’t mean employers will get penalised if they accidentally send work-related communications outside of office hours.

While penalties do apply to those employers who don’t cooperate, they won’t be penalised if they send an email outside work hours by mistake! Employees can still take up complaints with their employers if they’re getting communications related to work after-hours and feel that they’re expected to answer these communications.


Fact vs Fiction #2: Third parties are included in the no-contact guidelines

Fact: The legislation applies to employers contacting employees outside normal working hours. However, this doesn’t mean that only employers are discouraged from contacting employees.

Fiction: This doesn’t exclude third parties like clients or clients of the business contacting employees. Employees who are contacted by third parties still reserve their right to not respond when contacted out of work hours.


Fact vs Fiction #3: Disputes regarding the legislation

Fact: Employees can raise a dispute regarding the legislation. Under the law, employees can make complaints directly to their employers about being contacted outside of work hours.

Fiction: This doesn’t mean only employees can raise disputes. Employers can also raise a dispute that an employee has incorrectly exercised their right.


What should small businesses do to prepare for these changes?

If you’re the owner of a small business, you still have quite a bit of time to prepare for the Right to Disconnect legislation being applicable to you. While it’s still a year away, we’ve prepared a handy list of what small business owners can do before 26 August 2025 comes. 

Conduct an audit of current work hours and communication needs. From there, create a Right to Disconnect Policy that applies to the normal working hours of employees in the business. Consider also adding this policy to your employee handbook, and send out communications to employees when the legislation and the policy take effect in your organisation.If you’re not sure how to conduct an audit like this, or how to go about creating a policy that’ll be compliant with the legislation, contact our team about this and we’d be happy to help!

Ensure there’s clarity around Right to Disconnect for everyone in the company. Employers, managers, and employees in the business should all be clear about what the Right to Disconnect means… and what it doesn’t. There could be a lot of misinformation that could be spread, especially in a legislation so new. Counteract this by sending employees easy to understand material around what the legislation entails, and having training for managers around what’s acceptable and not acceptable when it comes to contacting employees under the guidelines of the legislation.

Consider doing the following:

    1. Create a process that takes into account on-call allowances and overtime pay for events where employees might need to be contacted outside of normal working hours.
    2. Clearly identify what is considered as reasonable out-of-hours communications. An example of this is relaying shift times.
    3. Let clients know about any communication guidelines about contacting employees.


The Right to Disconnect can benefit employers and employees alike. Employees can enjoy a better work-life balance that can benefit their mental health, as well as be able to disconnect from work without the fear of negative impacts hanging over their heads from not being always on-call. Employers benefit by having a workforce who are productive and engaged as a result of a better attitude towards work.


Want to create a Right to Disconnect policy for your business and don’t know where to start? Our team is willing to help you create one custom-designed for your business.  Get our experienced HR Advisors in your corner to help create processes that ensure compliance with the legislation—contact us now.

Book A Free Consultation