Skip to main content
Norman Waterhouse

Working from Home During COVID-19 Pandemic

In accordance with current Government advice regarding COVID-19, all persons who can perform their work from home, should do so. Due to the rapid effects of COVID-19, the direction from the Government came quickly, with little time for employers to be prepared. It is clear that the “lockdown” directions from the Government may be in place for an extended period of time. As such, many employers may not have a Working From Home Policy (WFH Policy) or it may be the case that their WFH Policy is not sufficiently broad to cover the impacts of COVID-19.

While it is not possible for all occupations, a vast proportion of Australians will be able to perform their duties from home. Before an employer directs an employee to work from home, it should first turn its mind to a number of considerations, including whether an employee is a suitable candidate to work from home, how productivity will be maintained and how to minimise exposure to work health and safety risks arising from the ‘home’ workplace.

We set out below some considerations for when employees work at home.

Work Health and Safety

If an employer considers that an employee’s duties can be performed from home, it can lawfully direct a staff member to work from home, provided the staff member has (or the employer can provide) the necessary electronic/communication tools.

In South Australia, employers have a primary duty of care under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) (the WHS Act) to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers. This obligation extends to instances where employees are working from home. Specifically, if an employer directs an employee to work from home, that employee’s home becomes a ‘workplace’ for the purposes of the WHS Act.

To minimise the risk of work, health and safety breaches occurring in an employee’s home while they are performing their duties, employers should implement a working from home checklist for employees to complete and submit to the employer before being granted permission to work from home.

Factors that may be incorporated into a working from home checklist may include, for example, the provision of a designated workstation, access to technology, appropriate seating, lighting, floor space and ventilation.

Workers Compensation

Injuries or illnesses sustained in the home may still be considered compensable injuries for the purposes of the Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) if the injury or illness was sustained in the course of employment. For example, if an employee is taking a call while simultaneously exercising at home and an injury is sustained, there may be an argument that the injury arose in the course of employment.

To avoid injuries or illnesses being sustained in the workplace (whether that is at home or at a work premises), employees should be aware of their obligations as set out in the employer’s WFH Policy. Employees should not be exercising or performing other tasks while they are carrying out their workplace duties and this should be clearly communicated to all staff before they transition from the office to their home.

Management of Productivity

While some employees excel when working at home, for many the change of work scenery also presents a lot more distractions to employees. As such, to maintain productivity, consistency and allow for easier communication, employees should start and finish at their usual times as they would if they were physically attending the workplace (and those for which they are remunerated for).

Further, managers should be in constant communication with their subordinates while working from home to monitor workflow and productivity. Employers may also consider directing employees to record their time and tasks completed while working from home, for submission to their manager on a weekly basis.

Protection of Confidential Information

It is quite common that employers direct that company information be kept secure and even should remain at the company’s offices. In the current situation with many companies using different methods to share information, a WFH Policy should capture how this is managed.

Take Home Messages

During this unprecedented time of uncertainty, employers should also constantly keep engagement and communication with their employees to ensure their health and well being. This link here provides a guide for Health and Well being Tips for Working Well at Home.

It may be the case that due to the impacts of COVID-19, employees may be required to spend an extended period of time working from home than first envisaged by your existing WFH policy. Employers should have a WFH Policy in place that deals with (at a minimum) working hours, designated work spaces, methods of communication and work health and safety obligations.

For more specific information on any of the material contained in this article please contact Sathish Dasan on 8210 1253 or Ganesh Krishnan on 8217 1395 or or Anastasia Gravas on 8217 1331 or


23 April 2020



Get in touch