20 October 2021
During the most recent outbreak my boss has refused to allow me to work from home. I have a PC provided by my employer and I can complete 99.5 per cent of my duties remotely. I also have serious underlying health issues, but my boss insists on me coming into the office. If I contract COVID-19 whilst at my physical workplace, after being instructed not to work from home, do I have some sort of recourse against my employer? Please help me since I know that if I stand up to my boss, I will eventually be managed out of the business, and this has already been expressed to me.
I’m incredibly disappointed that this has been your experience. I don’t know what industry you work in or what state you live in but I can offer some general thoughts. All employers have a duty to provide you with a safe workplace and to take all reasonable steps to ensure your safety.
I must say it is a big call for any employer – particularly during a lockdown – to make it mandatory for an employee with underlying health conditions to come into the office when they can work from home. You mentioned your responsibilities can be completed at home, which means your employer is ignoring government advice if you are in NSW or Victoria, where it’s currently stipulated that employers must support staff to work from home if their duties can be done remotely. There have been fines for businesses that don’t comply with public health orders. Not to mention employers risk copping compensation claims from staff who can prove they were infected with COVID-19 at work.
Is there anyone you trust and can speak with at work for advice and support on what solution may be possible?
I’d love some advice on bullying in my workplace. I work for a union and can’t believe this behaviour is allowed to take place. My boss took an instant dislike to me when I started and when I raised it higher up, I was told that this is just how this person is. I wouldn’t let it rest and kept taking notes. My boss walks around like they own the place, breaks confidentiality and teams with others to bully me. I took my boss to mediation which helped briefly, but now things are back to how they were. I have raised it – again – with higher-ups and they have dismissed it – again. I’m usually strong and speak up but I feel intimidated. How can I be blunt and tell them to grow up and put an end to it?
I get so cranky when I receive letters like yours (and sadly, they are becoming more frequent). This situation is totally unacceptable. You have done the right thing in raising it. Everyone is entitled to go to work each day feeling safe, respected, and able to speak up. You are well within your rights to take further action.
It is hard to know the process you have taken already when you raised this with your higher up bosses (twice) and sought mediation, and whether you did that formally or informally. I would find out all you can about your formal workplace anti-bullying and complaints process so that any action you do take is on the record and in writing.
I also asked employment law guru, Hall & Willox partner Fay Calderone, for some general advice on what people who feel they are being bullied at work can do if they don’t feel their own workplace is taking the issue seriously. She said to consider going to the Fair Work Commission for orders to stop the bullying. They will look at the facts of your case and if they determine bullying is happening, they will make orders to your employer for it to stop. The Fair Work Commission may also refer the matter to your state’s relevant workplace health and safety regulator for investigation as well.
Finally, to anyone reading this wondering if this reader could be someone you are giving a hard time to at work, then you have fair warning to just stop. Leadership is not about belittling people or having them scared to speak up. Leadership is about treating everyone with respect and compassion.
I only started working in my job one month before the pandemic. I accepted a low paying job after eight months of searching for a job. I was happy until recently as it supported me during the pandemic, now I want to change but I am scared how long it’ll take with very little savings. I have 18 months of experience now. Please help me gather the courage to resign from my current job.
Sending buckets of courage your way! You have 18 months more experience than you had when you found this role so get cracking and start looking for your next job now. If it takes a while, at least you have your current role to fall back on until you are ready to move. Don’t waste another day – start cranking up your CV and scouring the job sites. Good luck!
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