With the COVID-19 pandemic likely to spark a lasting shift in how Australians work, new research raises several concerns regarding conditions and protections for Australians working from home.

The Centre for Future Work has released new research documenting the extent and distribution of home work, and urging policymakers to ensure the safety of workers and the fairness of work-from-home arrangements.

 Key Findings

  • About 30% of Australian jobs could conceivably be performed from home, with office-based jobs most flexible to a home location.
  • Women are more likely to be able to work from home than men, but face greater challenges in doing so (due to the pressures of combining work and family responsibilities in the same space).
  • The expansion of work-from-home arrangements raises concerns around the conditions of work from home, and protecting those who perform it, including:
  • Fair compensation (including extra expenses associated with at home work).
  • Rules regarding working hours and pay.
  • Ensuring a safe at-home work environment (including its social and familial context, with challenges like domestic violence).
  • Protecting the privacy of workers from undue monitoring and surveillance by employers.
  • Occupations which can work from home were already paid about 25% more than occupations which cannot be shifted to remote locations.

“Normal employment patterns won’t suddenly reappear, even once the health emergency has passed and people are able to go back to their workplaces,” said Dr Jim Stanford, Economist & Director of the Centre for Future Work, and co-author of the report.

“The current rapid expansion of work-from-home arrangements makes it particularly crucial that policymakers ensure home workers are provided with appropriate support and protections, to prevent abuse and exploitation as working from home becomes more common.

“For those that cannot work from home, it is essential that comprehensive income protections are considered, so as not to further exacerbate income inequality—already, those who work in jobs that can be done from home earn around 25% more than those that do cannot.

“It is likely that much of the increase in at home work will become permanent, even after the immediate health emergency passes, so it is crucial policy makers pay top-priority attention to ensuring the safety and fairness of work from home arrangements.”

The report, “Working From Home: Opportunities and Risks,” by Alison Pennington and Jim Stanford, can be found at: https://www.futurework.org.au/working_from_home_in_a_pandemic_opportunities_and_risks