Working from home has become the new norm for many, and in various parts of the country is likely to remain this way for a while. Depending on the person and the workplace this can have both positives and negatives. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, you as an employer have a responsibility for your employee’s health and safety wherever they work, including from home. Today we’ll be looking at a few common questions regarding working from home.

My employee has requested to work from home permanently. I don’t believe this is best. What are my rights?

As we discussed in yesterday’s post, this depends on whether they are in a position to request flexible working arrangements. Their eligibility depends on a number of factors, such as whether they’ve been working (either permanently or as a regular casual) in the business for over 12 months, and whether they have a valid reason to support the request, such as a disability, caring for school-age-or-younger children or other carer roles, or experiencing (or supporting someone who is experiencing) family violence. 

You need to have an honest conversation with them about their needs and the needs of the business. If they fit the criteria for requesting flexible arrangements then their request can only be refused on reasonable business grounds.

If your employee has already been working from home you’ll need to establish clearly why this is no longer appropriate.

Can I direct my employees to continue working from home, even though we are allowed to have them back in the workplace?

If you are receiving JobKeeper payments for your employees you are able to make a JobKeeper enabling direction to specify their place of work. This can be their home, so long as this is a suitable environment. If you’re not able to direct them under JobKeeper arrangements you can come to a mutual agreement about their place of work (make sure you document this in writing). However, if the employee does not agree to this you are unable to force them.

If an employee is working from home permanently what equipment do I need to provide for them?

As stated above, when an employee works from home you have the same responsibilities to them as you would if they were in the workplace. It’s important to conduct a thorough health and safety inspection of their working environment, as they can be equally eligible for a Workers Comp claim for an injury sustained in working from home as they are in the traditional workplace. However, you are under no obligation to provide an employee with equipment that they do not need to safely perform their role.

If the employee is asking for the equipment because their workstation is unsafe, it will be important for you to do an assessment before taking any further steps. You may determine that it is best for the employee to borrow equipment from you, or for you to reimburse reasonable costs.

Tomorrow is our final day in this Returning to Work series, and we’ll be looking at face to face interactions. If you’ve got any questions about anything you’ve read here, make sure you give us a call on 1800 577 515. We’re always happy to help!

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