Telecommuting: When an employee works away from the central workplace

Telecommuting involves an employee working away from the central workplace (usually at home). It can be done on a permanent or ad-hoc arrangement.

Positions not suited to telecommuting

Some positions may not be suited to telecommuting because they require:

  • a high level of face-to-face customer service
  • the use of specialist equipment
  • immediate responses or direct supervision.

Complying with your industrial award

Make sure that any telecommuting arrangements meet the requirements of the relevant industrial award or agreement that covers your business.

Learn more about awards or agreements on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Employer benefits

For employers, the benefits of allowing telecommuting agreements include:

  • increased productivity - often fewer distractions at home, and time at the central workplace is used more efficiently
  • flexibility - employees can continue to work when their central workplace cannot be accessed (e.g. due to a transport strike or natural disaster)
  • extended hours of operation
  • less parking demands
  • reduction in accommodation costs - 2 employees may be able to share a desk.

Employee productivity when telecommuting

To make sure productivity levels remain consistent when an employee is telecommuting, they will need access to work email. They may also need to:

  • access the network remotely
  • store information and documents on local drives
  • load documents and information onto a USB storage device before leaving the workplace
  • take home hard copies
  • forward their office phone to a mobile phone.

Work health and safety (WHS) requirements for telecommuting

Under WHS legislation, you have a duty of care to ensure that the work environment of all your employees is safe and they are covered by relevant insurance in the event of injury or illness.

Workers' compensation insurance requirements

All employers are required to have a WorkCover Queensland workers’ compensation accident insurance policy to cover their workers – including workers based at home.

WHS requirements

Workers who are carrying out work for their employer at home are still covered under WHS legislation. Employers have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of their worker is not affected by conduct of the business in their home.

Reasonable steps should be taken to ensure a worker's home work area meets work, health and safety requirements. Factors to consider may include:

  • available lighting in the work space
  • ergonomics of the work station
  • safety of equipment, including computer and electrical cords
  • noise levels
  • airflow
  • access to a fire extinguisher.

Before commencing a telecommuting agreement, you should discuss and formally agree (in writing) on the following:

  • dates and location for work
  • work activities to be carried out by the employee at the alternate location
  • start and finish times for work at the alternate location
  • work breaks to be taken in accordance with organisational policy
  • any regular travel that will take place during work start and finish times while at the alternate location.

© The State of Queensland 2016

The content was first published on www.business.qld.gov.au

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