Minimising the spread of COVID-19: Working from home

Information for employers and employees about working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated

This guidance is correct as at time of publication, however, Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO) Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated. Readers of this guidance need to check the latest Victorian CHO Directions for applicability.

Restrictions apply across Victoria

Depending on your industry your workplace may:

  • be required to close temporarily for on-site work
  • remain open for on-site work with a completed COVIDSafe Plan in place
  • be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations

It is mandatory for every Victorian business with on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan.

Victoria’s COVIDSafe settings may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with changes for your industry.

How are my occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations impacted by the restrictions?

There is no change to your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) as a result of the directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO).

Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work. However, having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with the Victorian CHO directions does not necessarily mean you have complied with all of your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

You must follow any health directions that apply to how your business must operate, and ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.

Minimising the spread of COVID-19

Working from home may help minimise the risk of individual employees' exposure to COVID-19 through reduced public transport travel, as well as reducing the risk of transmission occurring at the workplace through face to face contact.

Note: This guidance is about working from home as a precautionary measure. For information about required self-isolation due to overseas travel or coming into contact with confirmed cases of coronavirus see the Department of Health (DH) website.

Who has duties?

Employers have a duty to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide a working environment for their employees that is safe and without risks to health.

This includes identifying and controlling risks to health or safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19.

It also includes controlling new risks that may be introduced when an employee works from a location other than their normal workplace, such as their home office.

Employers must consult with employees and health and safety representatives (HSRs), so far as is reasonably practicable, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them. This includes consulting on decisions about working from a location other than the usual workplace.

These duties extend to any independent contractor engaged by an employer and the employees of independent contractors.

Employees must take reasonable care for their own health and safety, and that of others who may be affected by their acts or omissions in the workplace.

Employees must also cooperate with their employer's actions to make the workplace safe, for example, by following any information, instruction or training provided.

Working from home

Whether working from home is a reasonably practicable measure will depend on the specifics of the workplace, the facilities available for employees to work remotely and the ability for employees to do their work safely from home.

When making decisions about whether employees should work from home, employers should:

  • consult with employees and HSRs about whether working from home is an appropriate arrangement, including at an individual employee level
  • keep up-to-date with information about COVID-19 risks and appropriate control measures
  • seek advice specific to their circumstances, including from employee and employer organisations, legal providers and official advice issued by the Department of Health (DH).

During consultation, employees should consider whether they will be able to carry out their normal work at home with appropriate risk control measures in place.

Health and safety issues to consider when setting up a home office, include:

  • whether working from a different location will introduce additional risks, such as risks associated with hazardous manual handling
  • the suitability of work activities
  • the suitability of the workstation set up
  • the environment, for example lighting and noise
  • communication requirements
  • mental and emotional wellbeing
  • any training in safe working procedures that may be required

In some circumstances, working from home may not be reasonably practicable. For example, if a suitable workstation cannot be set up, or employees are not able to carry out their normal work tasks remotely. Other controls, such as implementing other forms of social distancing or delaying non-essential tasks may need to be considered.