Your EBA explained: Your right to disconnect

Sick of taking work home with you? Leave work at work and protect your new right to disconnect.

Your new EBA19 directs your managers to respect your leave and rest days, and avoid contacting you outside work hours unless it’s an emergency or genuine welfare matter.

Clause 59 – Right to Disconnect is the beginning of a significant culture shift which aims to ensure that members can ‘switch off’ from work after clocking off.

As one of the major themes of EBA19, health and wellbeing is front and centre in this initiative.

We know how important rest and recovery is, particularly for jobs like yours where a typical work day is fast-paced, stressful, and often full of situations which test your mental and physical health.

Make no mistake, this is an unprecedented step.

The right to disconnect has not been secured through any known enterprise bargaining by any other police or law enforcement agency in the world, and it’s rare even in the most progressive industries and nations.

We won’t lie – a change as big as this one won’t happen overnight.

It will take some time for members of all ranks, whether in managerial roles or not, to understand and adapt to.

But be assured it will drive cultural change in years to come.

Listening to member needs

“This clause came about while we were working with members to compile our EBA19 log of claims,” TPAV Industrial Relations Assistant Manager Luke Oliver said.

“Members told us they were being contacted more than ever before outside work hours, and they reported that many of the matters they were contacted about were trivial and could have waited until they were next on duty.

“As our members saw it, management was taking advantage of the interconnected era we’re living in, but this was having a detrimental impact on members’ ability to rest and recover from a demanding job like policing, and they were sick of feeling like they’re on duty 24/7.”

Some may be skeptical about adherence by managers given there is no penalty attached for breaches (despite our best efforts), but we promise to stand with members in holding the employer to account.

As the EBA is a legal document, TPAV can take action to prosecute for breaches – and we are ready to do so.

We recently held a live Q&A on TPAV Members’ Group on Facebook* where we discussed this clause with members, and we appreciate the great discussion and feedback we received.

As a result, we’ve put together a ‘frequently asked questions’ guide to help you better understand when the right to disconnect applies.

FAQs

Who does this apply to, and who is exempt?

All members from recruits to Senior Sergeants are covered by the right to disconnect clause, unless they’re in receipt of an availability allowance.

What constitutes an ‘emergency’?

Examples of an emergency include recalling a member for a bushfire, pandemic, terrorist attack or similar event.

Calling a member to ask about a piece of corro is almost certainly not an emergency.

In fact, this is one of the complaints that prompted us to negotiate the right to disconnect.

Calling someone on a rest day today to change their shift on Saturday when they are in tomorrow is also not an emergency.

Other situations will depend on the circumstances and we will have to consider them given the relevant circumstances at the time.

If in doubt, contact our TPAV Member Support Centre for an assessment.

What constitutes a ‘genuine welfare matter’?

Like emergencies, this will often be dependent on some circumstantial factors which will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, but there are some ‘clearly in’ and ‘clearly out’ scenarios.

Calling someone involved in a critical incident the next day to see how they are travelling is clearly okay.

Calling someone on sick leave for two days and saying, "How are you, and, by the way, where is that brief?" is not.

Again, contact our Member Support Centre for assessment if you’re in doubt.

How does this work with the change of shift (COS) penalty?

Contacting members outside rostered hours to advise them of a change of shift is not always an emergency, but is sometimes necessary.

This will take some trial and error to implement, and we appreciate members’ feedback as this occurs.

Broadly speaking, if the only reason a member is contacted outside work hours is to ensure notice is more than 72 hours (so a Change of Shift penalty does not apply), then that is unnecessary.

That can wait until tomorrow.

However, if a member is not rostered on before the changed shift, they would likely require a heads up if their start/ finish time has changed.

For more information on the Change of Shift penalty, click here

What should I do if I’m being contacted for non-emergency or welfare matters outside work?

The easiest way to protect your right to disconnect is by not answering your phone to work calls outside work hours.

If you are consistently receiving calls from the office outside work hours, consider discussing the issue with your supervisors.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, contact your TPAV Delegate for assistance – if it’s happening to you, it’s likely happening to others in your workplace and it’s exactly this sort of advocacy your Delegate has been elected to assist with.

Try to keep a ‘contact diary’, noting the details of any calls you receive outside work hours.

Establishing a pattern of unnecessary contact would be good evidence for us to hold Victoria Police to account in this regard.

You can also contact our Member Support Centre on 03 9468 2600 or [email protected], or send us a DM on social media.

*If you’re not already in TPAV Members’ Group on Facebook, you can join via the ‘groups’ tab on our page or through your TPAV app. Remember to answer all the questions so we can verify your identity to ensure the group remains secure.