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Is your boss making you come into work? Here are your rights

Office workers using their laptops while wearing masks. A street sign encouraging COVID-safe practices.
Workers in NSW being forced into the office can report their employers for breaking NSW health orders (Source: Getty)

As the spread of COVID-19 worsens in New South Wales, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has encouraged employees to turn in their workplaces if they are not keeping up with NSW Health guidelines.

This includes ensuring there are proper health and safety measures in essential workplaces and employers allowing workers to work from home where it is “reasonably practicable”.

Despite $10,000 fines for employers breaking the rules, some workplaces have not been allowing employees to work from home, and have been requesting workers come into the office.

Speaking at the daily COVID-19 update press conference Berejiklian said the government will be focusing on cracking down on businesses who are breaking the rules.

“Police will also from tomorrow be given the power to close a public premise, a work site, a workplace, a business, if those entities continue to flout the public health orders,” Berejiklian said.

“We're noticing too much of a lack of compliance from businesses or from premises. If that's the case, police will be given.... the power to close down those premises.”

What constitutes an essential worker

This can be a bit vague and depends on a number of factors which can confuse many individuals and workplaces.

Obviously, there are a number of workers that we can all acknowledge are essential. For example doctors, nurses, police, firefighters etc. However, the NSW government has also listed a number of other industries that are considered essential.

These include:

  • Administrative and support services

  • Agriculture

  • Education

  • Electricity, gas, water and waste services

  • Financial services

  • Health care and social assistance

  • Information media and telecommunications

  • Manufacturing

  • Public administration and safety

  • Retail trade

  • Transport, postal and warehousing

This seems like a broad list but there are limits on them all. For example only those who work in enabling click and collect services are considered essential under the umbrella of administrative and support services. So, if you work as an assistant or receptionist, you are not considered essential and should be allowed to work from home.

To find out all the exemptions and what is considered an authorised worker visit the NSW government website.

What you can do if you’re being forced into the office

If you are not an authorised worker as defined by the government, there are a number of things you can do.

The first of which is to turn them in. Berejiklian encouraged workers in NSW to report their workplace if they believe their employer is not abiding by the stay at home orders.

The NSW government has been very clear, on its website it states: “Employers must allow an employee to work from home if it is reasonably practicable to do so.”

This means that if you are able to reasonably do your job from home, then your employer must allow you to do so.

If you are worried that you might get in trouble for turning in your employer, never fear. You can anonymously lodge a complaint through CrimeStoppers.

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