The year 2020 has been one for the history books and now, more than ever, businesses have needed to find a new ‘normal’ when it comes to navigating a range of challenges and disruptions to both service delivery and operations – none more than when it comes to staff working arrangements. In Queensland, we are beyond lucky. Many of us have been allowed to move back into the office and resume our everyday working lives. However, it seems that both big and small businesses alike have used 2020 as an opportunity to become more nimble, agile, and well… mobile.

Even with restrictions having almost completely lifted in Queensland, people are now choosing to work from home on a more permanent basis.

A survey of employees conducted by the University of Sydney found that 75% of workers believed employers would support working from home arrangements in the future. With this in mind, it’s important we know a few extra things about WFH Safety and Work Cover as we settle into a new way of living.

At Brandon & Gullo, we are here to help ensure your business and your employees are protected and safe whilst working from home.

Here are five things you should know if your employees are going to keep working from home into the future:

1. Workers Compensation Covers Employees Working from Home

It is highly likely if an employee suffers an injury while working from home and it can be shown that those injuries occurred during the course of their employment, then they will likely be covered by Work Cover. Businesses are unable to deny liability based on their employees’ remote working location. This is all the more reason to ensure a safe work environment and educate employees on policy and procedure which, spoiler alert, we talk about below. If you have any employees working from home, it is important for you to check in with WorkCover and your Public Liability Insurer to ensure you have the appropriate cover in place to protect your employee and the business.

2. Workplace Health and Safety Legislation Still Applies

Usually, if an incident happens while you’re in the office, a colleague will see it, someone will be there to ask or tell, and things rarely go unnoticed. When we are working from home, it’s a lot easier for incidents to go unreported simply because employees don’t know where to take them. The best thing we can do about this is make our policies and procedures transparent for all our employees. A friendly guide to working from home could include a section on safe work practices, where to report any incidents, what kind of things should be reported, and who is available to answer any questions . It should also remind them of their obligation to devote their time and effort during the their ordinary work day to work tasks (and not watching TV or watering the garden). You might also like to include your expectations of your employees whilst working from home. This might involve their responsibilities such as ensuring they have a suitable internet connection at home, that they are taking care of office equipment, and are communicating when they need assistance from you or their colleagues etc. and of course remind them that while they are working from home, they are still representing the company and their behaviour while working from home should mirror the behaviour  expected of them when physically working in the office.

3. It’s your duty to ensure your workers have a safe workplace

As we know, under WHS legislation, it is an employer’s duty to ensure that an employee’s environment is a safe one. Of course, now that things are happening from home, both you and your employee are responsible for the setting up of a safe workstation.  The best thing we can do to stay involved in our WFH employees’ workstations is keep an open dialogue, check in on what they need, what they are struggling with and what they could use to make home a better work environment.  This has more advantages then just adhering to WHS legislation (though that is paramount), a good work environment can really enhance productivity and passion for someone’s work.

4. You need to educate your employees on policy and procedure

Usually, if an incident happens while you’re in the office, a colleague will see it, someone will be there to ask or tell, and things rarely go unnoticed. When we are working from home, it’s a lot easier for incidents to go unreported simply because employees don’t know where to take them. The best thing we can do about this is make our policies and procedures transparent for all our employees. A friendly guide to working from home could include a nice section on safe work practices, where to report any incidents, what kind of things should be reported, and who is available to answer any questions. You might also like to include your expectations of your employees whilst working from home. This might involve their responsibilities such as ensuring they have a suitable internet connection at home, that they are taking care of office equipment, and are communicating when they need assistance from you or their colleagues etc.

5. Mental health and psychological wellbeing

Undoubtedly, ensuring the mental wellbeing of our employees is just as important as their physical wellbeing. As employers, we must minimise risk to psychological health and safety arising from working from home as far as is reasonably practicable. Good communication is the perfect tool when it comes to this. Check in, provide resources, and offer support, be it internally or through an external organisation such as SafeWork, Beyond Blue, Lifeline etc.

These learnings aren’t new but often slip down the priority list even before we began working from home. It seems, if nothing else, 2020 is a great year to turn our minds to the way we operate, refine some of our policies around safety, learn how adaptable we now get to be into the future and do it all whilst wearing trackpants.

If your team is considering working from home on a more permanent basis, contact the team at Brandon & Gullo for a review of your employment agreements to include any additional working from home provisions.


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Disclaimer This blog is for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to any specific issues.