On 23 November 2020, some restrictions under the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 5) 2020 (“Public Health Order”) were eased. The New South Wales (“NSW”) Government repealed a provision of the Public Health Order, which required employers to allow employees to work from home “where it is reasonably practicable to do so” (“Public Health Order for Employers”). As of 14 December 2020, employers are no longer obliged to allow employees to work from home where they can practicably do so. The Public Health Order for Employers has been in place in NSW for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis since 15 May 2020, and this repeal coincides with the NSW Government easing a number of other gathering restrictions.
As employees return to the office, workplaces are strongly encouraged to prepare or update their COVID-19 Safety Plan. NSW’s work health and safety regulator, SafeWork NSW, also encourages employers to stagger staff starting and finishing times to reduce the impact on and risks associated with public transport. Employees using public transport are also strongly encouraged to wear a mask.
In contrast, the Victorian Government is still requiring employees to work from home, unless employees cannot perform their role from home or another location. The Queensland Government has yet to mandate a similar requirement for employees to work from home. Given the recent easing of the Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction (No. 11) by the Queensland Government, it is unlikely a work from home requirement will be implemented. Whilst the South Australian Government recently implemented the Emergency Management (Stay at Home No 3) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 in response to a wave of COVID-19 infections, this direction was revoked soon after infection rates declined. There are no current directions in place in South Australia to require an employer to allow employees to work from home where practicable.
For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Australia, please contact Michael Harmer (Partner) of Harmers Workplace Lawyers at michael.harmer@Harmers.com.au or visit www.harmers.com.au.