COVID-19 and working from home

COVID-19 and working from home

Many workers feel unsure of their rights as a result of COVID-19 coronavirus. There are five things you need to know about working from home:

  • if your employer tells you to work from home because it is safer, this is probably legal
  • your employer must make sure it is healthy and safe for you to work from home
  • your employer can tell you to attend your usual workplace if that is lawful and reasonable
  • if you cannot go to work and cannot work from home you might still be paid, depending on your situation
  • if you are not sure about your rights, you can get legal advice. See Get help with COVID-19.

Do I have to work from home?

Your employer must follow laws about health and safety, as well as new rules about COVID-19 coronavirus.

Government and health authorities say that anyone who can work from home must do this. All employers must allow employees to work from home where this is possible.

You must do what your employer asks if it is lawful and reasonable. It is probably lawful and reasonable for your employer to ask you to work from home if:

  • it is safer for you or the people you work with
  • that is what is recommended or required by government guidelines or health advice.

What if I must quarantine or isolate?

If a medical professional directs you to quarantine or isolate, you must not go to work. You must not leave your home or the place where you are staying. There are new, serious penalties for people who fail to isolate or quarantine.

You can ask your employer to let you work from home during the isolation or quarantine period. Your employer may agree or disagree, depending on the type of work you do and your circumstances.

You may be entitled to payment from your employer or the government if you, or a child you are caring for, must isolate or quarantine at home.

For more information, see COVID-19 and being unable to work.

Do I have to go to work?

If it is not possible to do your job from home, your employer may direct you to attend work.

If your employer wants you to go to work, you must go if all the following apply:

  • it is lawful. For example, your workplace is allowed to stay open.You can visit the Department of Health and Human Services website for information about Victoria’s current restrictions
  • it is reasonable. This will depend on the type of work you do, and your circumstances. Every workplace is different. What is reasonable in one workplace may not be reasonable in a different workplace.
  • it is safe
  • You have not been told to self-isolate or quarantine. 

You can refuse to do work that is unsafe.

If you are not sure whether you must attend work, you can get legal advice. See Get help.

How do I make my home safe for work?

Employers must make sure that workplaces are healthy and safe. Employers must take reasonable steps to make sure working from home arrangements are safe for workers.

Workers must also take reasonable care of their own safety when they are working from home.

What is reasonable will depend on your circumstances.

What if I cannot work from home?

If your employer tells you to stay at home but you cannot work from home, you might be paid your ordinary pay.

Your employer should keep paying your ordinary pay if:

  • you are healthy and want to keep working
  • it is not reasonable to ask you to use your personal leave, such as sick pay or holiday pay.

If your employer refuses to pay you when they should, you can get help from the Fair Work Ombudsman. You can get legal advice. See Get help with COVID-19.

If you are unable to work from home because you are sick, or caring for a child who is isolating or quarantining at home, you may be entitled to paid leave from your employer, or government payments.

For more information, see COVID-19 and being unable to work.

More information

Learn where to Get help with COVID-19 coronavirus

Visit our Find legal answers page on Employment and your rights

Fair Work Ombudsman Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws

Acknowledgement

We acknowledge and thank JobWatch for allowing us to use their COVID-19: Employment rights Q&A to prepare this information.

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