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Edition 416 – Unnecessary Regulation

There’s no doubt the pandemic changed the way most of us work in Australia, and across the globe. Technology, and a rapidly changing economy where a large portion of the working population are employed in knowledge based industries has meant there are businesses that can function where staff don’t need to head into the office.

From my observation, what worked throughout the pandemic, and beyond it, was the fact that whilst the Government mandated “work from home” and “learn from home” for health based reasons, essentially, how it was put into practice involved negotiation between employers and employees. Rules were developed. Systems were tested, and occasionally broken. Yet, ultimately, it worked.

Two years on from the pandemic, what’s of enormous concern, in my opinion, is the recent announcement by the Fair Work Commission that it wants to look at the work from home rules again, but in a post pandemic world. And, what it’s looking to do is mandate these changes into the Australian Industrial Relations system.

Make no mistake, the Fair Work Commission is not running this inquiry as a result of the fact that it thinks it’s a good idea. This is all about the Federal Government wanting to enshrine, either in legislation or by regulation, work from home rules for a great portion of the Australian workforce.

I have one simple question about this, and I address it to the Minister for Workplace Relations, Tony Burke? Why does the Government feel it needs to legislate, or regulate, work from home rules?

I hear the argument that it’s in the interest of employees, but, what about those occupations that can’t work from home such as:

  1. Emergency services
  2. Pilots
  3. Building and construction industry tradespeople
  4. Cleaners
  5. Baristas.

In my opinion, if this Federal Government goes down the route of mandating work for home rules, they automatically will create two classes of worker in Australia.

  1. Those that can work from home
  2. Those that can’t work from home.

Without fail, that will lead to an “us-vs-them” divide between each. The Government will argue it won’t, but those of us that are business owners, and employ people, can’t see it any other way.

In the future, if these rules are mandated, why should anyone go into a trade, or train to be a paramedic, when their work conditions are going to be significantly different to someone else who has the ability to work from home, such as a lawyer, accountant or administration assistant?

Does the Federal Government, in their infinite wisdom, realise they are creating a future shortage of people that will be willing to work in occupations that don’t offer work from home options, purely for practical purposes.

Do they not also see that in the classroom, there will be a divide amongst those students that perform to educational expectations, and just might jag a career in the future that allows them to work from home, and those other students who don’t conform, and will be told that they’ll never have the chance to work from home.

My guess is this. Not today, but in the next 30 years, if these rules are mandated, there may well not be enough people to build houses, or operate our hospitals, or care for our elderly, simply because the Federal Government of today has developed a two-class system in the Australian workplace – those that can, and those that can’t work from home.

This is definitely a Canberra thought-bubble, designed by people who, most likely, are working from home, and should realistically, venture out of the national capital, go and see what the real Australia looks like, before embarking on a monumental, and completely unnecessary change.

This Week’s Tip

“Work from home should be a negotiated arrangement between employers and employees. Governments should butt out!”