Have you been working from home during the pandemic and are wondering if you are still able to do so, as people return to the pre-pandemic world and go back to the office. The answer will really depend upon your particular workplace and circumstances.
This article provides general guidance for workers as to when it is practical and reasonable to work from home. If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice regarding your situation please contact our employment lawyers.
Staying safe at work and home
Workplaces can generally allow their employees to work from home at their discretion. Obviously, a workplace must take into account whether there are any health orders mandating that certain employees work from home.
Work health and safety laws require employers to take all reasonable and practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workers from the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.
Employees also have health and safety obligations to minimise any risks when working from home. This may include:
- following work procedures about how your work is performed
- keeping your work equipment in good working order and using the equipment provided by your workplace per employer instructions
- maintaining a safe work environment, such as having a designated work area
- adjusting your furniture to ensure comfortable access, providing adequate lighting and ventilation in the area you are working from and repairing any uneven surfaces or removing any hazards
- continuing to ensure your own in-house safety, such as keeping up maintenance of electrical equipment and smoke alarms
- notifying your employer of any risks or potential hazards present in your workplace
- immediately reporting any changes that may affect your health and safety when working from home
When is working from home practical and reasonable?
This will largely depend on your particular workplace and the facilities available to work remotely and safely from home. When deciding whether working from home is appropriate for your particular situation, your employer should consider:
- your individual role and whether working from home is suitable for your work activities
- workflows, expectations and your workstation set up
- the surrounding environment in which you will be working from, such as ventilation, lighting and noise, and your home environment, such as partners, children, vulnerable people and pets
- any communication requirements such as frequency and type
- your mental health and emotional wellbeing
- the type of safe working procedures and training required
Any existing workplace policies will continue to apply when working from home. Employers must also continue to consult with their employees and any elected health and safety representatives on working from home arrangements.
What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 while working from home?
If you test positive for COVID-19 you must follow the health advice provided by your local public health authority and notify your employer as soon as possible.
Your employer should have discussed your leave arrangements with you prior to you working from home. If you are unsure of your leave arrangements, you should contact your employer and confirm same. It is also possible that you may continue to work from home if you have no symptoms, or only minor symptoms.
When can I be required to return to my workplace?
This is dependent on a range of factors, including:
- any public health requirements
- the individual circumstances of an employee working from home
All employers must ensure return to work arrangements adhere to relevant Australian and local government advice, legislation and that they also undertake a risk assessment and consult with employees before requiring them to return to the workplace.
Whether you are entitled to continue to work from home now that people are returning to the office will mostly depend on your type of work and workplace circumstances.
You will also need to continue to have health and safety obligations in place to help minimise any risks when working from home.
If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on (03) 9600 2768 or email [email protected].