80% of Employees Want to Work From Home: ACTU

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The results of a recently released ACTU survey say that 80% of employees want to work from home, but say they’re fearful of losing pay or working conditions if they face resistance from their employer. 

The Australian Council of Trade Unions – ACTU – says its latest survey indicates that 80% of employees want to work from home moving into the future, however, a lack of protection for workers could find them losing either working conditions or taking a pay cut to facilitate the change. 

They took responses from 10,000 Australian employees around the country. 

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The Council of Trade Unions says that it is currently developing a new working from home charter that would detail “the rights and benefits of those now working at home not be less favourable than what they were prior to the move to home-based work, and that working from home not be grounds for discrimination.” 

The ACTU compared numbers from September 2019, signalling a 31% increase in the number of people working from home permanently, and a 9% increase for those working from home once a week, and 6% increase for those working remotely one day a month. 

Results of the ACTU’s survey say that 81% of workers responded they would prefer to continue working from home, with 47% saying they work more productively from home. 

There are, however, financial downsides with shifting to a means of working from home, with a reported $530 increase in additional expenses, and an additional 32% workload increase while working from home. 

Other headlines in the ACTU’s survey suggest that more than 40% of employees are working longer hours than they would have working in a physical office, and that 90% of that extra work was not being paid at overtime or penalty rates. 

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The report states that 62% of workers responded that they were starting their work day before 8am, with more than a third of workers saying they were logging hours past 9pm on a regular basis. 

60% of those working from home said that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were spending significantly more time with their caring duties amid temporary school closures and restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. This was a potential cause for the more than 49% of workers reporting depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health issues. 

Sally McManus, Secretary of the ACTU has issued a statement saying that the organisation will “be working to support our members to ensure we lock in fair working from home arrangements.” 

McManus continued to explain that “working from home should be voluntary and people need control over the hours they work. We all need to be aware of the problems if there is not sufficient choice and control, and this survey shows the potential impacts on mental health.” 

“We also need to be aware that working from home has particular impacts on women and carers, and we don’t want to see existing gender inequality entrenched through new forms of work.” 

Sally McManus told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell this morning that “both workers and employers are wanting to do more work from home, so lets approach it in a way that’s going to be good for both.” 

In reference to the reported drop in mental wellness, McManus said that “a couple of dangers that are really clearly illustrated in the survey, it’s around mental health… when your work is actually in your home, there’s no physical boundary,” and therefore “people are finding that there’s an inability to unplug.” 

Last month, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott said there was a “mixed view” regarding remote working practices, and that the COVID-19 pandemic identified “structural problems,” with workforces moving to remote working en masse. 

“We’ve got to make sure we’re very careful about making huge assumptions that every now will work from home and it’s good for everyone,” she said, adding that working from home should be a “choice” that will involve changing current workplace and discrimination laws. 

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