Working from Home.  What to do if you are considering approving working from home.

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We have noticed a recent increase in the number of Balance Contractors working from home.  If this is something that you are considering offering to your Balance contractors here is some important information for you.  A deeper and interesting review of some recent research into the good and bad of working remotely can also be found in our blog article ‘WFH: Is it all its cracked up to be?

In Australia, we have legislated, rightly, to protect the safety and wellbeing of all workers, regardless of the environment in which they work.  In terms of working remotely, this adds an additional layer of complexity on employers not only to ensure the mental health of a worker at home, but to take steps to ensure the physical home environment in which an individual may wish to work is suitable for the task.  While this may seem like overreach, especially from the viewpoint of workers, legal findings clearly implicate a role for the employer in workers safety at home.  Read more here.

So, what does this mean to organisations that engage contracting personnel:

  • All workers have the right to request flexible working from home arrangements. It does not mean that an employer or Host Organisation is obliged to agree to such an arrangement, but the request must be taken seriously, and a justifiable reason given if this will not be possible.
  • While working at home, an employee’s personal space is now a continuation of the workplace. This means that there is a responsibility on the employer to review the suitability of the home for work purposes. This might manifest as a face-to-face visit, or request for a photo of the intended work environment and completion of a detailed checklist by the worker to determine the suitability of the space for working from home.
  • For regular working from home, a formal working from home agreement must be in place before anyone works from home. This MUST be done by Balance Recruitment.
  • When working as a one off, or ad hoc, a safety checklist must still be done first. Again, this MUST be done by Balance Recruitment.

In short, if you manage Balance workers in your organisation, do NOT approve working from home for a Balance worker before speaking with us.  Even if it just a day.  Obviously, we won’t unreasonably refuse, it’s just important he have completed the correct process.

A sobering example is from 2006, where a Telstra employee was working from home as part of an agreement reached with her employer.  On two occasions, while walking downstairs from her upper story office (where she was logged into Telstra systems), she fell and injured her shoulder.  On the first occasion it was to get some cough medicine from her cupboard, and on the second it was to ensure her front door was locked after seeing her son off to school.  On both occasions she coughed, slipped and fell, and the amalgamation of falls resulted in the need for surgery.   The case was brought to the AAT and it was found the physical injuries arose out of Ms Hargreaves’ employment, and Telstra was liable to pay compensation. You can read more here.