The Right to Disconnect from Work - are there any Laws?

Hi there,

I have a mobile from work where I get calls from the bosses and my employees.

My work is full time Monday to Friday with occasional OT on Saturdays. I'm always available to take calls if I have employees working on Saturdays.

Now my manager was upset because my mobile was turned off on Sunday and couldn't reach me for a non urgent matter and wants I'm available 24/7. If I dont have any employees working and finished my work on time I should be able to disconnect on the weekends.

Are there any fair work laws stating the right to disconnect on weekends? Or do I really have to be available 24/7?

As far as I remember my original contract only says to work reasonable free OT (salary wage).

Comments

  • +9 votes

    What does your employment contract state? If it doesn’t have anything listed then power that phone down on Sundays. Your boss has no right to be upset - maybe they should learn to disconnect too?

    •  

      Yes it doesn't mention anything on phone availability.

  • +7 votes

    I have a work phone and won't pickup any work related calls the minute after I clock off, they can pay me OT if they want me to answer the calls. Im on an hourly rate so not sure how much it is expected in salary based jobs.

    •  

      That's how it should be. I still leave it on few hours before /after work on weekdays but I don't think I should have to on weekends if nobody is working on site.

      •  

        Don't leave it on when you're not working, at all

  • +3 votes

    If your contract doesn't have your weekend or after hours listed, then it should be OT otherwise no requirement for you to pick up. There may however be 'expectations' that you do, for instance, if your boss is taking calls at odd times, then he/she may expect that others are working too for whatever reason.

    I used to have a boss that expected that I too be working whenever he was, which wasn't the case when it came to after hours or weekends.

    Many of my colleagues have work phones and with it, unfortunately, comes expectation that they answer when it calls at whatever time. I on the other hand, have one, but have never ever turned it on or had it upgraded. It's literally a brick nokia, where my colleagues want the latest and greatest, but they don't know the real cost.

    Everyone now knows they'll never get to me after hours or on weekends, so no body ever tries to call me. Boss (at the time) didn't like it saying it wasn't fair for others, but I said I'm not paid so won't be answering to which he couldn't rebut me.

    •  

      Some other employees and managers use their work phone as personal phone as well so never disconnect.

      I've never liked that and have my own phone.

      I won't do it unless HR tells me I have to. Just wondering if there are any actual laws about it, couldn't find anything on Fair Work website.

  • +2 votes

    work reasonable free OT

    I think they gotcha on this one.

    Maybe start looking for a new job. Doesn’t sound like you have positive relations with your management.

    •  

      I don't think Sunday would /should be considered reasonable OT.

      Wouldn't want to quit over this in the middle of a pandemic so looking for options.

      •  

        You don't have to quit, just have a talk with your boss so you can manage their expectations.

        • +1 vote

          Completely agree. Part of life’s skills is negotiation.

  • +4 votes

    Put it on silent. It can ring but you didn't hear it as you were entertaining guests.

    If there is an issue with that, maybe time to get some clarity regarding your OT requirements and remuneration.

    • +1 vote

      Will have to do that if it comes to it. Thanks

  • +5 votes

    No laws are required. Your employment contract will specify when you work. You're not a slave. if they expect you to be on call 24/7 then you need to be paid for that over and above your standard hours.

    •  

      Exactly my thoughts!

  •  

    You need to have an open conversation with your boss around your concerns. I think they are perfectly reasonable, but maybe there is some reason that your boss thinks otherwise. Always best to understand both sides and then come to a solution together.

    For example if your boss is doing work and needs some support on a Sunday, maybe you can have a roster with your team to take the calls and provide support. Is overtime or time in lieu applicable?

    If your boss is just a douche then maybe time to look elsewhere, it is very hard to manage upwards and you normally just end up limiting your own career opportunities

  • +7 votes

    If he wants those hours - he can pay you for those hours.

  • +1 vote

    It's time to stand your ground as there aren't specific laws to help. It will come down to what is considered 'reasonable'.

    Tell your boss you also have a life outside of work even if they don't.

    •  

      Username ummm sort of checks out

    •  

      That's right!

  • +1 vote

    I use the excuse that I need to go to the toilet 20 times a day to disconnect from my workplace.

    • +1 vote

      I could hear people using their phone to watch videos or play games whilst they are sitting at the work toilet. Is if they don’t already bludge enough lol.

      •  

        😂 They probably forget why they are even in the cubicle to begin with.

    • +1 vote

      Username checks out! lol

      And why can't you answer the phone on the toilet? 😋

      •  

        Because people can hear the splashing 🤫 especially wfh situations.

        •  

          If they want to call during "your" time, let their ears suffer! haha

          •  

            @bobbified: Flushing would sound like applause from Olympic games on Apple II or XT/AT (pre sound blaster or adlib).

  • +1 vote

    My former manager guilt trips me for me not taking calls while he is working on Saturday.

  • +4 votes

    Minimum 4 hour call out fee for any weekend work done outside of normal hours IMO. If you can't charge for overtime they can't expect it of you, even if there's an unwritten expectation.

    Interested to know what industry you are in.

    •  

      Minimum 4 hour call out fee for any weekend work done outside of normal hours IMO

      Do you work for a bank? That was the big 4 banks' policy when I was there before. It was even better for weekends where it's time-and-a-half and double time.

      • +1 vote

        I started in IT at a health insurance provider. Sundays used to be double-double time after 2 or 4 hours. Man that was a good gravy train to be on during projects.

        I worked for a bank before that but in ops so no OT to be had really.

        • +2 votes

          ah yes. IT.

          Disaster Recover testing was the best. It was 48 hours straight of double time. Twice a year, I'd walk away with $5K in my pocket (after tax) for one weekend's work.

          • +1 vote

            @bobbified: One year they even printed up a t-shirt for everyone. I still use it as one of my “sleepy” t-shirts.

            Nowadays most big organisations tend to be active/active sites so the amount of testing required is pretty minimal; especially as standard installs tend to involve failover between the sites whilst mods are made.

            The Banks have got a lot less generous with the overtime. Now it tends to be Time In Lieu, but there never seems to be a good time to take it.

  • +1 vote

    You should refer to your contract. But, If you are full time employee, generally your employer must not request you to work more than 38 hours per week, unless special rules apply to your case.
    If you are ever in doubt, contact Fairwork as they provide free advice for employeement issues.
    Source:Fairwork Maximum Weekly Hours

    • -3 votes

      OP hasn't said how much he is on. Good luck only working 38 hrs a week when you're paid a decent salary. That's not the real world though there is a difference between working extra hours to match your salary and being expected to be around 24/7.

      •  

        That's not the real world though

        You should try fake world some time. Fake world isn't so bad.

        • +1 vote

          Hardlyworkin is right. Google "annualised salary". Most employment contracts (and NES) stipulate "reasonable overtime". If you get paid close to the award rate there is a requirement to pay you penalty rates for the weekend work (1.5 or 2.0 the rate or more on p/h). Hence you have every right to refuse to take a call. However, if you are on a significantly higher salary it is assumed that you are compensated for that (within reason).

          Imagine a doctor on $200K+ who refuses to take a call from the hospital during the weekend.

          Without additional information from OP it is impossible to tell.

          •  

            @AFOS:

            You should refer to your contract. But, If you are full time employee, generally your employer must not request you to work more than 38 hours per week, unless special rules apply to your case.

            Also, annualised salary may include certain number of hours of overtime, as overtime is often required in the industry. But any overtime over the included hours have to be paid separately. So, for example, if 50 hours overtime is included in annualised salary, any overtime beyond that needs to be paid separately.

            People who needs to work over time under their salary agreement usually knows how much overtime they are required to work under the contract and agreed to work that amount.
            Source:New rules for annual wage arrangements and Salary Payment

            How do overtime and penalty rates work?
            A salary doesn't mean an employee misses out on overtime or penalty rates.
            An employee's annual wage will generally include an amount for penalty rates and overtime. However, sometimes the annual wage isn't enough if the employee is working extra hours or at times they don't usually work.
            If an employee works more than the ‘outer limit’ of hours in a pay period or roster cycle, they're entitled to be paid at their award overtime or penalty rate.

            •  

              @Summoner: Not everyone is covered by an Award. So if you're an award free employee for example and get paid 100k a year, that's equivalent to working about 98 hours per week at minimum wage.

              •  

                @Hardlyworkin: Minimum wage under NES is the minimum wage one can earn per hour. It does not mean everybody not covered under modern award are paid at the minimum wage. Surprisingly, if someone's annual salary is 100k, their hourly rate for the calculation for their salary is more than the minimum wage.

                •  

                  @Summoner: True, though the calculation on whether they are paid more than the legal minimum is based on the base rate that applies to them.

    •  

      I do work more than the 38 hours a week. I don't mind too much on weekdays but I put the line on the sand for weekend. I need my days off without worrying of people calling me.

    • +1 vote

      Depending on the type of job you do and how the company is, it's not always a good idea to "refer to the contract". There are people who "refer to the contract' or "refer to FairWork" and find themselves out of a job pretty quickly.

      You know how hard or how little you work and should have a fair idea of what the company expects. If the employee and employer expectations are too far apart, things are not going to work. For example, there are people who come in late on some days, leave early on others and it doesn't bother anyone because there are also days they come in early and/or stay back late. People turn are happy to blind eye to someone leaving early or missing certain days if they always get their shit done. But that goes both ways too - sometimes things happen and you have to stay back late, answer the odd phone call, etc. It's give-and-take.

      Basically it seems that the higher up you are, the more "blurred" your working and personal life becomes. I'm not saying it's right or wrong. It's just an observation I've made over many years.

      On the other end of the spectrum, there are strictly 9-5 jobs like Call Centres roles. etc, where they're really strict on the clock-in, clock-out and rostered break times, etc. You don't have to receive phone calls outside the usual hours in a role like that. But then lots of people complain about the lack of flexibility. Those jobs, of course, come with much lower salary packages too.

      • +1 vote

        I totally agree with you. I am just providing the link in case some people are not treated fairly or reasonably. If their work pays or provides flexibility to deal with occasional overtime required for the job, there is nothing much to complain about.

  • +6 votes

    Hm.. that would be being on call and you should be paid for being on call.

  • +2 votes

    Ultimately, this is an issue about 'setting boundaries'.

    It is very important to always have boundaries in all relationships, irrespective of whether it's a relationship with your significant other, or whether it's with your friends, or with your manager. If you don't have boundaries, then you will be taken advantage of by others, and then you will feel resentful and angry, and it will even affect your physical health.

    It is up to you to think about and set the boundaries, and then insist that they be respected.

    For example, your boundary could be: "I don't want to disturbed with work matters on weekends".

    You would then assert this boundary with your manager. If he gets upset about it, then that's really his problem. You are not responsible for his emotions.

    You shouldn't be scared about him getting upset. You will find that in most cases, asserting your boundaries will result in other people giving you more respect.

    •  

      Yes, I will have to do that if requested again.

  • +2 votes

    If he wants you to be on call he needs to pay you to be on call.

    If you're on call you have to avoid drinking etc. Not fair to expect you to be available 24/7 with no compensation.

  • +2 votes

    It is very simple if you are on call then the company should pay for you to be on call and not 24/7/365!!! Make sure it is documented and HR are involved.

    •  

      Yes, if it gets to it I will involve HR.

  • +2 votes

    It is unreasonable for your manager to expect you to be available 24/7. My suggestion is you sit down and write up a list on what you think is acceptable availability and explain when you will, and won’t be, available. Don’t get drawn into any emotion, or guilt trip, or definition about your job. Just a statement of fact on “this is how it will be”. If you belong to a big organisation you could explain that HR can enter the discussion on “acceptable” overtime.

    The most important thing is don’t let emotion get involved. The better you are prepared for the discussion, the clearer your boundaries, the more likely you are to provide the best case.

    Best of luck.

    •  

      Yes my plan is to meet with HR if manager brings it up again.

  • +1 vote

    There was something in the news around this a few weeks back.

    I think it was with Police and being called when off duty, and not on call.

    The article was around laws being put in place to ensure people could disconnect.

    •  

      Yes, that's all I could find about it. They added it to their EBA. Hopefully they will make it into a Fair Work law.

  • +1 vote

    The weekend is to let your hair down. I’m sure the Boss wouldn’t want to talk to you when you are blind drunk.

    •  

      Exactly!

  • +1 vote

    "Work reasonably OT" is completely different to "answer your phone whenever we want".

    You need to have more communication with your boss. If it's the norm that you've been answering these calls on a Sunday, you need to tell them "I'm not available on Sundays to work without prior request" and probably not just stop answering your phone. It's understandable your boss is annoyed if this is a sudden change they weren't made aware of.

    There's no hard and fast rule on this. But they can't just give you a phone and expect you to be on call at all hours and call it OT. Comes down to whatever the specifics of your situation is, but communication is the key.