Right to disconnect: Clock off, log off

New laws entitle workers to ignore after-hours emails and calls. What does this mean for early childhood teachers?

Thanks to the recent passing of new legislation, Australian workers will soon have the right to disconnect. The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No.2) Act passed the Senate on 8 February.

From 26 August 2024, staff who work for organisations with more than 15 employees will be entitled to switch off and ignore unreasonable after-hours emails and calls from their boss or a third party, such as the parent of a student. This right will be extended to staff who work for organisations with less than 15 employees in 2025.

“Someone who is not being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalised if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day,” said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in a recent news conference.

For early childhood teachers, the new legislation means the demands of education and care work shouldn’t unreasonably encroach on their personal time. With already heavy workloads and high expectations, the new law gives teachers a much-needed chance to switch off and recharge during their downtime. 

Too often, teachers’ work extends beyond their contracted hours. This can mean messages from parents who expect immediate responses, a workplace sending out policies that staff are told to read in their own time, the need to post learning stories in their centre’s app, engaging in group messaging on WhatsApp, dealing with rostering requests, or being part of chats about work.

Directors are particularly at risk of being online 24/7, with many tasks that aren’t in their job description demanding their attention. They can get emails and texts at all hours and often have to “put out fires”, says IEU organiser Tina Smith. Unions have fought hard for the right to disconnect across every sector, Smith says, and it will empower early childhood teachers to say, “I’ve done enough and it’s my time now.”

Unsure what this means for you? Contact your union organiser.

This update is part of the February 2024 edition of Teachers r Teachers enewsletter. Teachers r Teachers is distributed to early childhood teachers, long day care centres and preschools three times per year. You can read past editions of Teachers r Teachers on our enews homepage or stay across all our updates for early childhood teachers on our ECEC page or via our Facebook community group for members only.