Unions push for working from home rights

Matt Coughlan
·2-min read

Employees working from home would be paid an allowance to cover all job-related expenses under a union push to ensure the shift away from offices is fair.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has launched a working-from-home charter of rights, which would force employers to ensure people are not working increased hours for free.

Bosses would be required to provide an allowance or full cost reimbursement for all work-related expenses including water, electricity and gas, stationery, equipment, telephone and internet.

Data governance bodies with union representatives would be established to ensure surveillance and performance monitoring information is not intrusive.

Employers would have to make every effort to set up safe working environments in employees' homes, including minimising mental health risks and paying attention to ergonomics.

The charter also calls for bosses to rule out rewarding workers who are constantly connected and to keep detailed records of hours and breaks.

Disputes should be subject to independent settlement including arbitration for matters linked to working from home.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said greater access to working from home could make life better provided it was sustainable and supported.

"The decision to work from home doesn't mean you surrender your rights at work or your mental health," she said on Tuesday.

"No one should be out of pocket, expected to work longer unpaid hours or not allowed to disconnect."

The coronavirus pandemic sent millions of white-collar employees home as governments desperately tried to stop the disease being transmitted at work.

Union surveys have reported a majority of people working longer unpaid hours, struggling to disconnect outside of work hours and encountering mental health issues.

There is also evidence employees are keen to work from home in some capacity into the future.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox accused the ACTU of having an adversarial approach that threatened cooperation between employers and employees.

He raised concerns with charging employers for a long list of expenses given people could claim 80 cents an hour as tax deduction for working from home.

"Any balanced discussion about employee costs should take into account the savings on petrol, parking, tolls and public transport associated with working from home," Mr Willox said.

The Ai Group chief warned the charter could discourage employers from allowing working from home to continue after the pandemic.