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Fair Work rules against employee’s bid to work from home full-time

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The Fair Work Commission has rejected an employee's request to work from home full-time, saying going into the office boosts productivity.
Working from home full-time

The Fair Work Commission has ruled against an employee who wanted to work from home full-time.

Fair Work sided with the man’s employer, saying working in the office can benefit productivity.

The employers’ victory comes as many workplaces encourage staff to return to the office, following COVID-era work from home trends.

The case

Adelaide man Charles Gregory works for Maxxia, a financial services company.

After COVID-19 restrictions eased, the company told staff they were required to work from the office 40% of the time. For full-time workers, that’s equivalent to two days per week.

Gregory requested to work from home every day, because he suffers from inflammatory bowel disease and needs to look after his son every
other week.

Maxxia rejected Gregory’s request to work from home full-time. It said it tried to make accommodations for Gregory’s disease, including moving his desk closer to the office bathroom.

Gregory brought the case before the Fair Work Commission in September after talks with the company failed to bring a resolution.

The law

An employee is entitled to request “flexible working arrangements” if they’ve been with an employer for at least a year. They also need to meet at least one category from a range of criteria such as living with a disability or being the parent of a school-aged child.

Under legislation updated last year, employees can raise disputes with the workplace tribunal if an employer rejects flexible work requests.

Decision

The Fair Work Commission said the company’s decision to reject Gregory’s full-time work from home request was based on “reasonable business grounds”.

The commissioner said “face-to-face contact” was important for productivity and workplace culture. Whenever Gregory’s not looking after his son, he’ll need to attend the office 40% of the time.

Impact

CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andrew Mackellar has welcomed Fair Work’s decision.

Mackellar told TDA the Commission’s decision “reinforces the benefits of face-to-face working on workplace productivity.”

However, he acknowledged decisions needed to be made on a “case-by-case basis”.

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