In his speech at the National Press Club today the Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Burke signalled the government’s intention to criminalise wage theft but there was no mention of a glaring problem that costs Australian workers $93 billion a year in unpaid overtime.
Minister Burke’s outline of the next round of IR reforms in the Closing Loopholes Bill to be introduced to Parliament next week ignores a major loophole in our employment laws. The unrestricted access employers currently have to workers outside their paid working hours is costing the average Australian worker six weeks of unpaid overtime per year.
The Greens want to see a right to disconnect in our workplace laws to further protect Australian workers from ongoing wage theft.
Lines attributable to Senator Barbara Pocock, Greens spokesperson on Employment:
“Australian workers need a right to disconnect to stop wage theft and close a critical loophole for undercutting wages.
“Australian workers do an excessive amount of unpaid overtime, in large part because they are always contactable. Workers should have the right to turn off their phones, block their bosses’ calls, and switch off their emails when they’re finished work for the day.
“With so much workplace technology intruding into our lives outside work we need some legislated protections that will allow workers to get their lives back. So many ordinary Australians have caring responsibilities and need to be able to give their full attention to their families and those they care for, as well as to recharge their batteries and do the things that are important to them.
“We need a more productive workforce and the best way to achieve this is by working smarter not harder. And this means having a right to disconnect from workplace distractions when we are on our own time.
“I’m also keen to see more detail on proposed protections for workers in the gig economy which are not just the people who deliver your meals but also the workers in the care economy who look after your children or your grandparents.
“While Minister Burke signalled some minimum standards for gig workers including a minimum wage, there are some other big issues that remain unaddressed including minimum hours, pay during wait times and health and safety compensation.
“The Labor Government could be ushering in a new class of underprivileged workers with the introduction of employee-like workers if these protections are not included.”