Many employers who implemented working from home arrangements during the pandemic are now facing resistance from employees when requested to return to the workplace.

Many employees have adjusted to the new way of working and for most, have experienced an increase in work life balance. Many employees who have been requested to come back to the workplace have reported experiencing return-to-work anxiety resulting in requests to continue their current working from home arrangements.

Can employees apply to keep their working from home arrangement?

Employees are entitled to request to continue their working from home arrangements however, employers don’t necessarily have to approve the request.

It is important to note that under the National Employment Standards (NES), the following employees are entitled to request flexible working arrangements, which includes working from home:

  • Are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • Are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • Have a disability
  • Are 55 years or older
  • Are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
  • Provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

Employees within these categories must have worked for the employer for a minimum of 12 consecutive months and submit their request in writing indicating their reasons for the request. The reasons for the request are important so that the employer can ascertain whether they fall into one of the categories under the NES.

When can you refuse a request for working from home arrangements?

If the reasons for the request fall outside of the categories identified under the NES, it is at the discretion of the employer whether the request is approved or declined. For example, if an employee wants to continue their working from home arrangement because they enjoy spending more time with their pets, it may be reasonable for the employer to decline the request.

If the reasons for the request fall within the categories identified under the NES however, the employer can only decline the request on reasonable business grounds.

Reasonable business grounds can include:

  • The requested arrangements are too costly
  • Other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
  • It’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • The request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.

When can’t you refuse a request for working from home arrangements?

Careful consideration should be shown when refusing an employee’s request for working from home arrangements as it can pose significant risk to a business. An employer cannot refuse an employee’s request to work from home on grounds of age, disability or parental and carer responsibilities as it may be deemed as direct discrimination.

Check out our previous blogs, Making Flexible Working Arrangements a Success, Ending Work From Home Arrangements, Returning to Work after COVID-19 for some more information about managing working from home arrangements.

If you’re looking for assistance in managing working from home or flexible working arrangements, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team, via the chat box here or calling us on 08 6150 0043.

Find our articles helpful? Remember to follow us on facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn to keep up to date with our practical tips and information for business owners and managers.