What is my employer’s duty of care as I work from home?
Many workers are required to work from home due to the covid pandemic. Other workers choose to work from home, regardless of the pandemic.
Then again, these requirements and choices may be for reasons other than the pandemic. Plenty of people have always worked from home.
The essential difference between these two groups, however, is the difference between choice and requirement.
Suppose for a moment, your employer imposes something on you – that you would otherwise have a choice about. Would you expect them to compensate you for this? Maybe compensate is too strong a word. At the very least, they should have a greater level of obligation towards you.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
Does my organisation have any obligations towards me as a Wofomer (a work-from-home-er)?
Are they meeting these obligations?
Do I know what these obligations are?
Has my organisation made me aware of these obligations?
Are they required to do so?
Do these obligations differ, based upon me choosing to work from home, as opposed to me being required to work from home?
What is your situation?
Do any of the following apply to you?
My organisation allows me to work from home…
- whenever and however much I want.
- sometimes, but they decide when and how often.
- does not normally allow me to work from home, but now thanks to the pandemic, I am required to work from home until further notice.
- never allows me to work from home or work remotely.
- does not have a workplace I can go to so I always work from home or remotely.
Whichever applies to you may change what obligations your employer has towards you. These obligations might be based on a contract of employment.
Be aware; many employment contracts were written before the pandemic started.
If you do have such a contract, has it been updated to include obligations due to the pandemic?
Have you reviewed it? Does it include items you are not making use of, that could benefit your work-from-home situation?
Your Employer Obligations checklist
Here are some things you should explore, or seek further advice about:
When you work from home, what are your employer’s obligations to…
- ensure your wellbeing and make allowance for your individual personal circumstances?
- provide you with all necessary work equipment and communications?
- tell you what your work productivity requirements are (deliverables, level of input, KPIs, work hours, breaks, flexibility)?
- allow you to claim back expenses, insurance and legal cover (general work-from-home administrative items)?
- provide you remote support, training and complaint resolution?
- inform you of any organisational changes such as management changes, job openings and return to work plans (if any)?
Different types of work (full-time vs casual, knowledge worker vs manual labourer), different country and government jurisdictions, and other similar criteria may have different rules and regulations with respect to the above.
wofome is always looking for creative examples of good employer initiatives that benefit Wofomers. If you have any examples not mentioned here, please share them with the wider wofome reader community – you never know, they may get adopted elsewhere.
Here is a good example of employer legal obligations from an organisation called sprintlaw.
How to find out what my Employer obligations are
There are a number of places you can go to find out:
- Ask your employer for this information (first, check this will not disadvantage you in the eyes of your employer)
- Do research on labour organisations that represent workers (An example: Safe Work Australia)
- Engage a professional who represents workers
- Search online, using keywords like ‘my employer’s obligations’ or ‘my work-from-home rights’ and so on.
- Keep checking wofome.com for updates
Does your organisation offer a Hybrid Worker option?
Many Wofomers work both from home and their place of employment, alternating between the two throughout the week. It’s either ad-hoc or based on a fixed schedule. (Example: Mondays and Tuesdays from home and the rest of the week at their employer-provided workplace). This kind of work is called Hybrid.
If your organisation offers a hybrid option have you asked your management about this? Are you already a hybrid worker? If you are, we would love to hear about your experience working as a hybrid. It could inspire other Wofomers to check out this option, if available to them. Please share your views.
In conclusion, being informed means being empowered. If you are not getting work-from-home support from your organisation, do your research first, then take action.
If you don’t ask, you may not receive.
And… let us know how you go.