Following the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may want to implement flexible working arrangements to enable employees to work from home.
A vast majority of employees have become accustomed to working from the comfort of their own home. Coming out of a period of snap lockdowns and COVID-19 outbreaks, the workforce has gradually returned back to the office location. The question now is whether employers can direct employees to work from the office (as opposed to working from home).
You may be able to direct employees to work from home, but there is a host of factors that you need to consider first. Employers can direct an employee to work from the office provided it is ‘lawful and reasonable’.
If an employment contract identifies the office as the primary place of work, it may possibly be reasonable for the employer to make such a direction. But that depends on what the employment contract terms stipulate. This is why it is so important that employment contracts contain clear and comprehensive terms.
Per the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), some employees have the right to request a change in working arrangements if they are a parent, carer, over 55 years of age, have a disability and/or are experiencing domestic violence. Although requests can be made, employers still have the right to refuse such a request on reasonable business grounds. If employers are to refuse an employee’s request to work from home, they may be required to provide reasons as to why they have done so.
Employers can direct employees to return to the office provided that it is reasonable. Reasonableness stems back to a case-by-case basis analysis including what has been agreed to in the employment contract. For example, if an employment contract states that the employee is entitled to work from home a few days a week, it may be unreasonable for you, as the employer, to direct that they work in the office full-time.
It is crucial that employment contracts contain clear written terms. It is also important that workplace policies are updated frequently to reflect current working arrangements company wide.
If you are an employer who has a question regarding working arrangements or employment contracts, please contact Aaran Johnson or Simon Kumar (contact details below) to discuss how Marsdens can assist your business.
The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.