6 Factors for Understanding “Reasonableness of Refusal” Under Australia’s Right to Disconnect Law

In an era where digital connectivity incessantly blurs the lines between personal and professional life, Australia’s new Right to Disconnect law is a beacon for workplace well-being. A key aspect of this legislation that HR professionals must navigate is the “reasonableness of refusal”—the criteria that determine when an employee can justifiably ignore work-related communications outside of their official working hours. This article delves into what constitutes reasonableness of refusal and offers guidance for HR teams to implement this principle effectively.

The Essence of Reasonableness

The Right to Disconnect law acknowledges that while employees have the right to disengage from work communications after hours, this right is not absolute. The “reasonableness of refusal” exemption ensures flexibility, considering the varied nature of work across different sectors. For HR professionals and Employers, understanding and applying this concept is crucial for maintaining a balance between organizational needs and employee rights.

Factors Determining Reasonableness

Several factors contribute to assessing the reasonableness of an employee’s refusal to engage in after-hours communication:

1. Urgency and Importance: Was the contact made for something that could significantly impact the business or was time-sensitive? Urgent matters may justify after-hours communication.

2. Frequency of Contact: Is the employee being contacted occasionally for important matters, or is after-hours communication a regular expectation? Sporadic, essential communication may be considered reasonable.

3. Nature of the Employee’s Role: Do the employee’s responsibilities include handling emergencies or situations that can’t wait until the next business day? Roles with such expectations may necessitate after-hours communication.

4. Employee Compensation: Is the employee compensated for being available after hours, either through their salary package or specific allowances? Compensation for after-hours availability may influence the reasonableness of expecting responses.

5. Personal Circumstances: Are there known personal circumstances that make it difficult or impossible for the employee to respond after hours? Employers must consider personal situations, including family responsibilities or health issues.

6. Legal Requirements: Is the communication necessary to comply with laws or regulations? Legal obligations may necessitate after-hours contact.

Implementing Reasonableness in HR Practices

To navigate the complexities of reasonableness of refusal, HR departments can adopt several strategies:

· Develop Clear Policies: Establish guidelines that outline the expectations for after-hours communication, including scenarios deemed reasonable for making contact.

· Management Training: Educate managers on the importance of assessing the urgency and necessity of after-hours communication and on respecting employees’ right to disconnect. People managers should have a clear understanding on what the right to disconnect workplace right is.

· Review Roles and Responsibilities: Regularly assess job roles to determine if adjustments are needed to after-hours availability expectations, particularly for roles critical to business operations or safety. This may mean variations to contracts of employment and position descriptions.

· Foster an Open Dialogue: Encourage employees to discuss any concerns about after-hours communication with their managers or HR, promoting a culture of understanding and flexibility.


For HR professionals and Employers, mastering the nuances of “reasonableness of refusal” is key to implementing Australia’s Right to Disconnect law effectively. By balancing organisational needs with employee well-being, HR can lead the way in fostering a healthy work environment that respects personal time while ensuring business continuity and productivity.

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Written By   

Jonathan Mamaril   


NB Employment Law   

[email protected]   

+61 (07) 3876 5111