In a recent decision, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has upheld the dismissal of a worker who resigned after Red Energy (the Employer) refused to buy him a desk to facilitate working from home. In fact, the Commission held that under the Covid-19 guidelines it should not be automatically expected that employers provide furniture for working from home arrangements.
Due to COVID-19, the Employer requested that its employees begin working from home. The Employer provided employees with laptops, headsets, adjustable chairs, ergonomic assessments and access to an occupational therapist.
The worker in question requested that the Employer purchase him a desk to work from home – he stated that he did not have a desk as he was moving house and was under financial strain related to medical expenses. This request was denied by the Employer.
In early July, when the Victorian Government reintroduced Stage 3 restrictions requiring all employees to work from home where possible, the Employer directed the worker that he could no longer work in the office.
Despite the Employer’s directions, the worker continued to work from the office for several days. When the Employer confirmed it would not buy him a desk, the specialist resigned, claiming he had been constructively dismissed.
The worker argued that s 4.3.2 of the “Guide for Employers: Preparing for a Pandemic” issued by WorkSafe Victoria requires employers to provide adequate resources for employees to support working at home, including “technology and furniture”.
He argued that he had been constructively dismissed in that the failure to provide a desk left him with no choice but to resign.
The Fair Work Commission Decision
Deputy President Colman, however, found that the Employer offered adequate resources and that the guidelines “do not require the provision of ‘furniture’ as a matter of course”.
He continued that “[the worker’s] argument that he was forced to resign is entirely without merit”.
“The simple fact is that instead of resigning, [the worker] could have bought a desk.”
The Deputy President added that if the Employer had chosen to dismiss the specialist for his refusal to follow “lawful and reasonable” directions to work from home, this would have provided a valid reason for dismissal.
Takeaway for Employers
The requirements of what employer’s need to/do provide for working from home will likely depend on a variety of factors – role, size of business, totality of their initiatives to facilitate working from home. If you require assistance or advice with respect to the above please do not hesitate to contact Nick Stevens, Luke Maroney or Bernard Cheng.