With flexible work arrangements becoming more common and with the increase of people working remotely, employers needs to take their Work Health & Safety obligations seriously. Without clearly defined limits on where work is performed when working remotely, the employer puts itself at unknown risk.
The new Work Health & Safety Act creates an obligation to protect not only employees but ALL workers. The meaning of workers can include contractors, subcontractors, employees of subcontractors, outworkers, work experience students and volunteers, just to name a few. The obligation extends to wherever work is carried out, which can include the workers’ home, vehicle, tree house, boat, the beach, or the top of Uluru….if work is carried out in those places.
I was speaking to an employee the other day who told me their employer lets them work flexibly. “I can go anywhere” they told me. This person took a laptop and sat on the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean, watching the surfers below. On the face of it, this seems fantastic… the smell of salt air, the sound of the gulls, sun beating down on your back (not this summer!)… but… what is the responsibility of the employer if the employee gets hit by a bird bonk, falls off the cliff, gets sunburnt, or is stung by a bee and suffers an allergic reaction while performing their work?
I have found that employers often fail to appreciate their responsibilities when work is done outside the traditional workplace.
When employers come to me because an employee has been injured outside the traditional workplace or they are trying to manage a flexible worker, I first ask “what documentation do you have?”. Generally speaking, clear policies, clear employment contracts and risk assessment documentation gives guidance for the problem.
Flexible work arrangements can work, provided the arrangements are carefully considered and documented with risk assessments and due diligence being carried out prior to commencing the arrangement. In my experience, flexible arrangements created without careful consideration tend to be less than optimum and fraught with danger.
For further information, please contact the Workplace Law Team.