Apart from ensuring that employees had the technology and resources necessary to work from home, the biggest concern for many was work health and safety. Work health and safety obligations continue to operate while employees are working from home, and employers must be careful to implement strategies to help discharge these obligations in the absence of physical control over the employee’s workspace.
As a first step, employers should have detailed working from home policies and checklists that can be used by employees to assess the safety of their (often makeshift) workspaces (think: ergonomics, trip and fire hazards, noise levels). These should emphasise that work health and safety is not just the responsibility of the employer – employees also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety.
Where it becomes apparent that home workspaces are not satisfactory, employers must consider what steps it is reasonably practicable to take to reduce risk. Sometimes, these steps may include purchasing (or subsidising the cost of) ergonomic equipment, such as chairs, keyboards or monitors. While employment contracts may include provisions requiring employees to foot the bill, it should be remembered that an employer’s primary duty of care cannot be contracted out of.
It is also interesting to note that there has been some talk of post-COVID amendments to modern awards that would require employers to provide employees with working from home allowances in some circumstances. Watch this space.
Source: Baker McKenzie