April 17, 2024

The balance of home and work Down Under

Make your own case

If you don’t remember my quote in our promotional story Feb. 12 about fellow staff members, Cheyenne, Mandy and Erin winning awards in the Iowa Newspaper Association contest, it stated how much I appreciate all of them and their ability to know what is news and when.

Let me emphasize “when.”

I like to think all of us who cover the news among Union, Adair and Clarke counties have a level of respect among each other. What is happening in Australia, I’d like to know what it really takes to violate the country’s new law.

Australia’s senate has passed so-called “right to disconnect” legislation to give employees the right to not respond to supervisors’ “unreasonable” texts, emails and calls when they’re off work. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese supports the measure, according to SHRM, an organization that networks companies’ human resource managers.

“Someone who is not being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalized if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day,” Albanese said at a news conference.

Burke said it was understood bosses may have to contact employees even after work hours at times, according to a story in the Indian Express. “But if you’re in a job where you’re only paid for the exact hours that you’re working, some people are now constantly in a situation of getting in trouble if they’re not checking their emails, it is expected to be working for a whole lot of time that they’re not being paid. That’s just unreasonable,” he said. Workers shouldn’t be obligated to respond to messages during uncompensated hours, he said.

In case an employee-employer dispute over such contact happens, they must first attempt to resolve it at the workplace through discussions between the parties. If that attempt fails, they may move to the Fair Work Commission, the country’s industrial relations tribunal. Refusing to follow an FWC order could mean potential fines for the employer according to the Indian Express story.

The bills state factors such as the extent to which the employee is compensated for overtime work, the reason for the contact or attempted contact, and the level of disruption it causes to the employee will all be taken into account to judge whether the contact was reasonable.

Other countries, including France, Spain, Portugal and Colombia, give employees the right to disconnect from employers while off duty.

I’d like to know how this impacts media outlets and their staff members. What happened among the CNA staff last week is a great example.

Thanks to the Creston Fire Department, we have the capability to to receive the same calls for help through our cellphones the fire department receives. That way we know if they are worth responding. Last week, there was a call of fire and smoke in the neighborhood where Mandy and Cheyenne live. I wasn’t close, but I did see the 911 text on my phone. I then contacted both of them if they could see any flames or first responders.

Mandy answered. She said she was already outside of her house with her dog. She said she didn’t see any flames or smoke, so it probably wasn’t worth going. She was outside for a period of time should the situation had developed. She didn’t seem put off by my request and didn’t make an issue out of it the next day at the office.

That’s not the first time we here at the CNA have had an instance like that. Each one of us have responded to a response like that after our normal office hours. We know it won’t be the last either. Last summer I responded to a small fire behind our office after hours because I knew the three were not available.

I do wonder how this would effect other industries. I remember my fast-food job during my high school years. It was common to be called by the shift manager if I could take someone else’s shift because they were sick. Would that be unreasonable? The shift manager was attempting to fill all the slots; not unreasonable.

Inter-office relationships are crucial at times like this. I do think that will better determine the unreasonable aspect. If the person called, who could file for the harassment, just doesn’t like the supervisor who made the call; the action requested or who else it could include may be the grounds for a superficial complaint.

Maybe this rule will have an unintended consequence in Australia of creating better staff relationships, improved performance by supervisors and staffs or even better customer service.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.