Employment Law

Working from Home – What are the Implications?

Working from Home – What are the Implications?


For many people, the past 18 months has seen a significant change in their mode of work, with ‘working from home’ either part-time or full-time becoming at times necessary, and at other times desirable.

Whilst there are some obvious drawbacks to this arrangement, there are also many benefits, and as such, working from home is likely to become a permanent part of the employment landscape for many people.

What many employers fail to recognise, however, is that their common law and Work Health and Safety (WHS) obligations toward home-based employees and contractors are in effect the same as if the individual was working at their usual place of business.

These obligations are set out in both the Victoria Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and the Federal Work Health and Safety Act 2011 with similar legislative provisions for other States and Territories.

 WHS obligations can be summarised into three main categories:-

  1. General safety and work environment;
  2. First aid and emergency requirements; and
  3. Employee wellbeing.

Each of these categories has a number of specific requirements, and in principle, it is the obligation of the employer to take all reasonable steps to ensure minimum standards are met and maintained. There are also obligations upon employees to also take reasonable steps to avoid or minimise WHS risks in their home workplace.

Failure to take “all reasonable steps” could place an employer at risk, not only of the loss of productivity from an employee who suffers a workplace injury while working from home, but also it could expose the employer to penalties for a breach of the legislation and also reputational and financial risk as a result of litigation by an employee.

Some employers have elected to satisfy their duty of care by providing checklists and relying on the employee to self-certify their working from home environment as meeting WHS requirements.

Other employers are electing to outsource this task to specialist firms which have been established specifically to help employers to meet their obligations to home based workers and to and mitigate their WHS risks. These specialist firms conduct inspections and reports, identifying risks and advising on appropriate mitigation strategies.

Regrettably there are also cases where some employers have simply not adequately addressed these matters and we consider that ‘doing nothing’ is an ill-advised strategy!

The specific details of an organisation’s potential risk exposure can be complex and dependant on numerous factors. If you require any further information regarding the issues raised in this article, or you would like to be referred to a specialist firm referred to above, please telephone our Employment Law Team on (03) 9870 9870.  

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