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Australia will pass a new bill granting employees the “right to disconnect” from work-related calls outside of working hours without facing penalties, the latest country to amend legislation in an effort to promote a better work-life balance, the Independent reported.

The legislation is part of a broader industrial relations bill aimed at “closing loopholes” that undercut workers’ pay and conditions.

Employment Minister Tony Burke explained that the new rules will prevent employees from working unpaid overtime, with the right to disconnect and avoid unreasonable contact outside of work hours.

The bill stipulates that workers feeling unreasonably contacted should first address the issue with their employer, escalating it to the Fair Work Commission if necessary. It also includes provisions for transitioning temporary workers to permanent employment and setting minimum standards for temporary workers and truck drivers

Employers violating these new measures could face fines.

The Labor government has hailed these changes as necessary to protect workers’ rights and promote a healthier work-life balance.

However, opponents of the bill said the right-to-disconnect provision was an overreach, adding that it would undermine the move toward flexible working and impact competitiveness.

Similar laws giving employees the right to switch off official devices after work have also been passed in European countries, such as Spain and France.

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