Union pushes for private school staff’s right to disconnect

Union pushes for private school staff’s right to disconnect

In February this year, the Federal Government passed a law granting employees the right to disconnect from work communication after hours. For overworked school teachers across Australia, this legislation marked a welcome step towards restoring a work-life balance that has for so long seemed almost non-existent.

The new right for employees to disconnect after working hours comes into effect on 26 Augus, and a year later for businesses with fewer than 15 employees.

In a news conference, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese welcomed the passage of the ‘Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes No. 2) Bill 2023’, saying “someone who is not being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalised if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day”.

However, the Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Branch claims employer groups are pushing to limit the right to disconnect for teachers and support staff in independent schools.


The union, which represents more than 32,000 teachers and support, professional and operational staff in independent schools, says teachers and school staff are already carrying heavy workloads and they need the same right to disconnect as other working people.

“Of course, we recognise that overnight excursions and camps, Saturday sport and boarding house supervision are an essential part of life in many independent schools, and staff need to be available for these times and activities,” the union’s Branch Secretary, Carol Matthews, said.

“But teachers and school staff also have the right to downtime and are still entitled to the legislated right to disconnect when they are not performing an allocated or rostered duty.”

Matthews said that the AIS’ call for school staff not to have this right is “unreasonable”.

“School staff should not be required to be on call at 8pm on a weeknight if a parent or student wishes to contact them,” she said.

“We are happy to discuss clearly identified exceptions, but the new right to disconnect was designed to allow all working people family and leisure time free from work demands and interruptions, and teachers and school staff are no exception.”

The Association of Independent Schools CEO Margery Evans said the AISs’ joint submission recognises the importance of personal time away from work-related activities.  

"The submission does not oppose an employee’s right to disconnect outside of working hours," Evans told The Educator. 

"The submission requests that the Fair Work Commission maintain the flexibility currently provided by the Educational Services modern awards, considering the operational needs of Independent schools and their duty of care obligations towards staff and students in their care, for example, to supervise co-curricular activities, overnight school trips or provide pastoral care in the event of a school tragedy."