However in light of a recent ruling forcing Telstra to compensate an employee working from home who in 2006, after falling down a flight of stairs in her home, injured her shoulder, is giving employers the nudge to re-think their approach to flexible work practices.
The Administrative Appeal Tribunal ruling in June 2011, found that the Telstra employee’s injury had occurred in the “course of her employment”, and therefore eligible for compensation under the Safety Rehabilitation & Compensation Act 1998. Telstra was ordered to pay all medical and related treatment expenses, in addition to related legal action costs. Ouch!
So how well do businesses really know their obligations towards employees who are working from home, or want to work from home, and what course of action should you take?
Know Your ‘Stuff’
First, you need to be on top of current legislative requirements in terms of employees requesting working from home. Once upon a time, as a business, you could confidently decide on a whim if you liked the idea or not. In July 2010 The Fair Work Act introduced a requirement for companies to accept a request for flexible working arrangements (i.e, the employee held the right to ‘request’ flexible working arrangements) and agree to them – unless there are reasonable business grounds to reject them.
Companies now need to be aware that refusing a request for flexible working arrangements (e.g, working part-time, job sharing, or working from home) could be breaching relevant state or territory discrimination laws.
OHS legislation is not only the domain for large industrial organisations either. Right down to small micro-businesses, are impacted by the employer requirements of Occupational Health and Safety laws, in all ‘work places’ of the business. This includes employees working from home. So thinking as a smaller business that only big companies need to worry about that, is leaving yourself exposed to the repercussions, whether you are a Telstra, or not.
Corporate Canary HR featured in Smarter Business Magazine as expert advisor on how to handle flexible working arrangements.
Create Structured Policies & Procedures
Whilst outcomes, like the Telstra case can make employers wary, it is not an excuse to reject employees requests for working from home. Despite the Fair Work Act, giving employees with carer responsibilities some leverage, there are many mutual benefits to the employment relationship. This can range from high productivity and morale to higher employee retention rate and attraction features. It may even help businesses to negotiate on salary for the employee benefit of having flexibility. Many employees appreciate the difference it makes, even to their own pocket on savings such as travel to and from work, work clothing and lunches, etc.
Have you had issues with employees working from home? Do you have your policies and procedures in alignment with legislation?
See the Instant Policies and Procedures Kit.
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