Working from home arrangements relating to COVID-19
Do I need Ministerial approval to work from home or for an alternative work base?
As noted in Circular 2020/02 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, parliamentarians can approve working from home and leave arrangements. The Minister does not need to approve these working from home arrangements.
If an employee with an established work base is working from home temporarily during the COVID-19 situation, Ministerial approval for the employee to work from home or approval for an alternative work base is not required.
If an employee is temporarily working from an alternative location during the COVID-19 pandemic for personal reasons, they will not have been directed to travel to that location by their employing parliamentarian on official business. Therefore, they will not be entitled to claim travel or Travelling Allowance related to working from that location. If an employee is working from an alternative location that is interstate, the employing parliamentarian should notify the Minister in writing that they have an employee that will be based interstate during the COVID-19 situation.
If an employee is permanently relocating to a new location, the employing parliamentarian must seek approval if the new location is an ongoing working from home arrangement and/or an alternative work base, i.e. the usual Ministerial approvals must be sought.
If the employee is a casual employee and their work location would be an alternative work base (e.g. not Parliament House or an office provided at Commonwealth expense), the employing parliamentarian must seek the Minister’s approval, as the employee does not have an established work base.
What needs to be done before I work from home?
Where an employee works from home they are required to complete the Work Health and Safety Checklist - Working from Home or from a Privately-Funded Office (Form 151), to meet WHS obligations. Form 151 has recently been updated to included infromation from Comcare and any future assessments should be completed using this updated form. If any issues are identified through the completion of the Checklist, the employee should discuss the identified risks with their employer and ensure they are satisfactorily resolved. You should retain the checklist for future reference, however you do not need to send it to the Department.
The ATO has provided advice on working from home during COVID-19 as part of an individual's personal tax arrangements. Employees can consider this in reltation to equipment purchased to support them working from home during COVID-19.
To assist with reducing the rate of transmission of COVID-19 throughout the community, the Department of Health has outlined circumstances where individuals should self-isolate.
The Minister has provided flexibility to Parliamentarians to make decisions to address staffing needs and working arrangements within their respective electorate offices (see SMOS circular 2020/06 Protecting the health and safety of MOP(S) Act employees). In doing so, the Minister has encouraged each Parliamentarian to consider the health and safety obligations and the advice from the Department of Health in determining how to minimise risks to their staff and other persons in the electorate office arising from potential exposure to COVID-19.
This would include educating workers on best practice to minimise the spread of infection, self-isolation requirements or potentially closing electorate offices to the public.
Given the Prime Minister’s advice on 29 March 2020, Parliamentarians may wish to consider facilitating working from home where it is reasonably practicable to do so. Whether it is reasonably practicable to do so will depend on the ability for staff to work from home and the type of work they undertake and the operational requirements of the electorate office.
If working from home is not possible due to operational requirements, Parliamentarians should ensure staff working in electorate offices are adhering to social distancing principles, and following the latest health and hygiene advice from the Department of Health and Chief Medical Officers.
This guidance does not cover situations where an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, is caring for somebody who has, and/or is required to self-isolate by a relevant health authority. Leave arrangements in these circumstances are set out below.
Please see more information in the FAQs section.