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Working from home – Is the Employer obliged to purchase a desk?

Red Energy Pty Ltd (Employer) encouraged it employees to work from home due to COVID-19. The employer provided their employees with a laptop, headset, adjustable chair, ergonomic assessments and access to an occupational therapist.

A customer assist specialist (Employee) stated that he could not work from home due to having recently moved house, he had limited furniture and was experiencing financial hardship due to medical expenses.

The employer refused the employees request that they purchase a desk for him. However, the employer allowed the employee to continue working from the office. In July 2020 when the Victorian Government tightened restrictions the employer instructed the employee he could no longer work in the office.

The employee’s union became involved requesting the employer to purchase him a desk to enable him to work from home or allow the employee to continue working in the office. In contravention of the employer’s instructions, the employee continued to work in the office for several days.

The employee resigned when the employer confirmed they would not purchase him a desk. He claimed that he had been constructively dismissed.
The matter went before Deputy President Alan Colman, Fair Work Commission1 where the employee argued that the failure to provide a desk left him with no choice but to resign.

The Deputy President found that the company offered adequate resources and that the ‘Guide for Employers: Preparing for a Pandemic’ issued by WorkSafe Victoria does not require the provision of furniture as a matter of course. In response to the employee’s assertion that he had no choice but to resign the Deputy President stated that he could have purchased a desk.

The Fair Work Commission upheld the dismissal of the employee.

[1] Jayson McKean v Red Energy Pty Ltd [2020] FWC 5688 (26 October 2020)

This article has been prepared for information purposes only and is not legal advice. For legal advice regarding your specific circumstances, please contact WR Law directly on (03) 5499 6131 or by email at admin@wrlaw.com.au