Could remote work become a legal right?

Recommendations on work from home will be made to federal government with review

Could remote work become a legal right?

Millions of Australians may gain the privilege of working from home as the nation’s employer watchdog considers significant adjustments that could shape new workplace regulations.

The Fair Work Commission is deliberating on whether flexible work arrangements should become a legal entitlement. This discussion comes just a month after the passing of new laws granting workers the right to disregard calls and messages from their bosses after hours.

The review delves into various workplace concerns, affecting roughly 2.2 million workers on award wages. According to a report from news.com.au, its potential outcomes are poised to provoke business groups at odds with the federal government’s extensive workplace reforms.

Ultimately, the review will offer recommendations to the federal government. Subsequently, the government will evaluate the findings and propose legislative changes to parliament.

The impact of remote work

Workplace Minister Tony Burke highlights instances where remote work has mutually benefited both employees and employers. He encourages businesses to engage in constructive dialogues regarding this matter.

“It makes sense that the Fair Work Commission is saying okay, let’s check and work through submissions and see how that fits through the awards system,” he said in news.com.au.

Presently, about 37% of Australians currently work from home on a regular basis, as per the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, slightly down from 2022 levels. While Australian workers lack a general entitlement to work remotely, they can request this arrangement under specific conditions after a year with their employer.

Research by the Melbourne Institute indicates that a majority of Australian workers desire the option to work remotely, with 60% endorsing a hybrid model combining home and office work.

Caution about work from home

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged the positive impact of remote work, especially for working mothers, in news.com.au. However, he cautioned against adopting a uniform approach across workplaces.

“I think that it is important, from at least time to time that people gather in one place so they can have that social interaction,” he told reporters in Sydney.

A discussion paper released by Fair Work in January suggests that remote work doesn’t hinder overall productivity, according to new.com.au. However, it poses challenges for employers, such as facilitating mentoring and spontaneous collaboration, and blurs the boundaries between work and personal time, affecting employee wellbeing.

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