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Working from home

Last updated December 2023

This chapter explains your health and safety obligations to workers who are working from home, and the steps you should take to meet your obligations.

Why might a worker work from home?

A worker may work from home for many reasons, including:

  • temporary disability, e.g. an illness or broken leg;
  • the business model of an organisation encouraging home-based work;
  • a government or employer direction;
  • personal circumstances, e.g. carer’s responsibilities (includes parental); or
  • there being an unreasonable distance from the worker’s home to the workplace.
Important: The COVID-19 pandemic led to a huge shift in Australia, with an overwhelming number of workers working for extended periods of time at home. Many organisations and workers have chosen to maintain a level of home-based work.
Tip: Depending on the type of work your worker is required to perform, it may not be appropriate for them to work from home. To assess whether the worker’s role is suitable to perform from home, consider whether:
- all the worker’s tasks can be carried out safely and efficiently away from the regular workplace; and
- the quality of the work is likely to be affected if work is performed away from the regular workplace.

Case Law: State of Victoria v Schou (2004)

In State of Victoria v Schou (2004), the Victorian Court of Appeal considered the case of a subeditor, Ms Schou, who was employed to review transcripts of parliamentary debates for publication (known as Hansard). Ms Schou wished to work from home to care for a sick child. She argued that she did not need to be present during the parliamentary debate to act as an accurate subeditor.

The Victorian Government rejected her request to work from home and said it was a reasonable requirement for her to attend work. Ms Schou said that she could receive drafts via email and therefore there was no reason for her to be required to attend the workplace.

The Court of Appeal held that the mere existence of an alternative, i.e. to receive drafts via email, did not mean the requirement to attend work at Parliament was unreasonable. Ms Schou’s role as a subeditor not only involved editorial duties, but also education and supervision of other workers. It was therefore held to be reasonable to require Ms Schou to attend the workplace.

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