Australia

‘Good’ bosses will allow people to work from home during COVID-19 wave, say unions

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus says good bosses should be allowing their employees to work from home.
It follows Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly saying on Tuesday businesses should allow employees to work from home ‘if feasible’.

Ms McManus said a lack of health orders allowing people to work from home, meant it came down to an employer choosing to accept the recommendation.

“Every good employer at the moment, until this wave recedes, should be allowing their workers to work from home as they have done at various other times over the last few years,” she told ABC radio on Friday.
When asked about unions trying to enshrine flexible arrangements for workers into enterprise agreements, Ms McManus said face-to-face contact was still important for some workplaces.

“I don’t think it’s good to have a one-size fits all (approach) … there should be options for it,” she said.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has encouraged employers to allow people to work from home during the latest Omicron wave. Source: AAP / DIEGO FEDELE

“Lots of big employers with unions negotiated … say three days off, two days on, so those are the type of models being negotiated and I think they’re really successful.

“Where it can be done, why shouldn’t it be? A lot of employers realise that happier workers means a more productive workforce.”
The Financial Sector Union has called for the right to negotiate work-from-home arrangements to be formalised, in upcoming enterprise agreements with major banks.
But Ms McManus warned expectations about working from home could see women negatively impacted as they juggle their jobs with childcare or other unpaid labour.

She also raised the possibility that people could also miss out on career opportunities because they’re not being seen in the office.

New COVID variants can evade vaccine protections image

Ms McManus said flexible arrangements could also help workers deal with the cost-of-living crisis, helping them to save money on their commute amid skyrocketing petrol prices.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said it’s up to workplaces to decide their working-from-home arrangements.
Mr Albanese also said the impact of the current winter wave, driven by infectious Omicron sub-variants, was likely to be similar to that of the summer wave earlier this year.

Based on modelling, it’s expected the third Omicron wave will peak in August and wane by September.

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