Cops now entitled to peace and quiet when off duty

A new “right to disconnect” clause is being heralded as a major win for police officers, with their bosses no longer allowed to contact them when they’re off duty.

Published by Herald Sun on 6 September 2020

Under-pressure police have won a major victory with their bosses no longer allowed to contact them while they are off duty unless it’s an emergency or welfare matter.

The new “right to disconnect” clause is included in the latest police enterprise agreement and is the first of its kind for law enforcement agencies across the world.

The clause stops Victoria Police members from being unnecessarily bombarded outside of work hours and is legally enforceable.

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said police did a tough job and deserved a reprieve to switch off at the end of their shift.

“The demands of policing on our members are stretching so far into their private lives that for many it is hard to discern when they are off duty and when they are on,” Mr Gatt said. “These days, it’s ­become normalised to pick up the phone, ask a general question, check on the status of a matter or to seek advice ­unnecessarily. It means our members never really leave their work.

“If we want people to be on their game at work, we need to provide them time off from work too.”

Mr Gatt said those who breached the agreement could be taken to the Fair Work Commission. “An enterprise agreement is very enforceable. Generally speaking it doesn’t need to come to that, and when we see situations where agreed objectives are not met we can all point to the negotiated agreement and hold each other accountable.”

Victoria Police supports the change and has given bosses and colleagues new guidelines to understand when is appropriate to contact a member outside of hours.

“We advise our managers, supervisors and all colleagues that they should ask themselves the question: Do I need to contact the member, or can it wait until they return to work?” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

“It is important to understand that this is a cultural shift, and we support and encourage our members to apply this test when considering any need to contact a colleague outside of work hours, ensuring that it is necessary, appropriate and in accordance with the intent of this clause.”

Unnecessary work-related calls and texts out of hours was raised as a key issue by members during the formation of the agreement.

Mr Gatt said: “We expect this to be an evolution, but for those officers old enough to remember the ‘good old days’ we had this balance right once.”