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Are we legally allowed to ignore work on the weekend?

05 May 17

Hays, a British recruiting company, recently conducted a survey that reviews policies within organisations that aim to limit the amount of time spent working outside of standard business hours.

The survey includes 1516 Australian and New Zealand employees and employers. Of the 1516 respondents, 11% said their organisation has this policy or a similar policy in place.

18% say there’s an unwritten rule that they must respond to work communications on weekends or during non-business hours. 37% said they must respond to after-hours communications occasionally.

Nick Deligiannis, managing director, Hays, Australia & New Zealand, says it could be time for us to decide what’s expected of workers outside of business hours.

“It’s been a long time since most of us worked 9 to 5,” Deligiannis adds.

“Many Australians are working longer hours, which extend past standard business hours into our evenings and weekends.”

Hays refers to a case in France where workers won the legal right to disconnect from emails outside of business hours. However, Hays says there is disagreement about whether this policy would work in New Zealand and Australia.

The survey found that 41% of respondents say their organisation should adopt this policy. 6% said there is already a similar policy in place at their workplace and 22% like the policy but don’t believe it would work in their organisation.

On the other hand, 17% don’t like the policy and 14% remain undecided.

For these final 31%, Deligiannis suggests their ideal solution could be more malleable and come in the form of work-life ‘integration’.

“As opposed to work-life balance, with a scale balancing work on one side and life on the other, integration involves amalgamating work with the other elements of one’s life,” he comments.

“Whether that’s caring for children or older relatives, health and wellbeing activities, voluntary work or any other personal priorities, integration means life and work overlap and flexibility cuts both ways."

Deligiannis says that this policy may not suit every role but for those who have a job that doesn’t require them to be physically present in a certain location at certain times, it’s an option worth exploring.

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