- With working from home now the new norm in many industries, employees are often finding it harder to ‘switch off’, potentially creating a pattern of overwork.
- It’s important for employers to take practical steps to address the risks associated with staff working excessive hours.
Since a pandemic was declared in March 2020, working from home has become the new norm. Without physical barriers between work and home, it has become harder for many people to ‘switch off’, potentially creating a pattern of overwork. Less face-to-face time has also made it harder for employers to keep abreast of employees’ work hours and circumstances. These changes can create risk for employers whose staff are working heavy hours. Risks include employees feeling exhausted or disgruntled and, in some cases, resulting in employment-related claims. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides that employers cannot request or require full-time employees to work more than 38 hours/week (pro-rated for part-time employees) – unless the additional hours are ‘reasonable’ (s 62(1) and (2)). ‘Reasonableness’ is determined by: risks to health and safety; employee’s personal circumstances; needs of the workplace; entitlement to overtime; notice given to work extra hours; usual patterns of work in the industry; and the employee’s role and level of responsibility.