Important things you need to know
What are my responsibilities?
GP trainees working from home have the same obligations as they do at their usual place of work. The training practice’s workplace and employment policies, code of conduct and any other related procedures apply. Your obligation is to do the right thing even without access to direct in-person supervision, observing the same work practices as normally expected by your employer. All your usual employee responsibilities from the workplace continue to apply, such as obeying lawful directions and working to the best of your ability.
You must take reasonable care for your own health and safety, and take responsibility to work to your best ability in your home environment. Key aspects to consider include: getting dressed for work, so that you feel “at work” and behave accordingly. If possible, maintaining a separate workspace, so there is a clear delineation between work and leisure/family responsibilities. Ensuring you take regular breaks to maintain your health and wellbeing.
What are my employer’s responsibilities?
In Australia, an employer has a legal duty of care for the health and safety of their employees “so far as is reasonably practicable”. This duty is contained under the uniform work health and safety legislation of states and territories. That duty of care extends to anywhere work is performed. So if you request, or are asked by your employer, to work from home your employer is responsible to ensure this does not pose a risk to your health and safety.
Health and safety issues that your employer will need to assess when considering your ability to work from home, include:
- whether working from your home could introduce additional risks, (e.g. trip hazards)
- the suitability of work activities e.g. how telehealth will integrate with other clinical tasks such as examinations and provision of prescriptions, referrals and investigation requests
- the suitability of the workspace set up (i.e. desk, chair and computer set up is ergonomically appropriate to avoid strain or injury)
- the environment, (e.g. sufficient lighting and ventilation, and limited noise)
- communication and IT requirements, including that these are sufficient to ensure patient privacy and confidential access to medical records
- your mental and emotional wellbeing
- any training in safe working procedures that may be required
Your employer should provide you with a health and safety checklist (such as those available from Safe Work Australia), addressing these issues, which will assist with assessing the suitability of the working from home arrangement.
Telehealth consultations, whether in clinic or working from home, require supervision commensurate with normal supervision requirements for GP trainees. The delivery of practice-based teaching and education sessions by video or teleconferencing should also be considered if you are working from home. GPRA has developed a Telehealth Supervision Planning template to assist you to work with your supervisor when undertaking telehealth and working from home.
Does my training practice have to allow me to work from home?
Whether working from home is a reasonably practicable measure will depend on the specifics of your training practice workplace and its patients’ requirements and expectations, the facilities available for you to be able to work remotely and the ability for you to do your work safely from home.
Can my employer inspect my home before approving working from home arrangements?
Formal inspections of homes can be required before approving working from home arrangements; however, this may not really be practical in current circumstances, so you may be required to participate in a virtual tour, using videoconferencing software, or provide some photographs of your workspace.
Who pays for my expenses if I am working from home?
Your employer’s primary responsibility under the Fair Work Act is to pay you for the work you do under applicable awards, enterprise agreements and contracts. Your employer is also responsible for providing you with the appropriate resources for work to be carried out. So while it could be argued that there is an implied obligation to also reimburse you for expenses incurred while working from home, this is not specified in the NTCER. So you will need to establish with your employer what costs will be reimbursed, what limits apply, and what approvals are required.
If your employer does not reimburse you for expenses (e.g. extra electricity or internet access) remember you can also claim work-related expenses, including the cost of a dedicated work area, as tax deductions. A simplified formula for this deduction has been introduced by the ATO to assist with the COVID response.
Will my work from home be recognised as training time?
Telehealth consultations can be counted towards training time as per RACGP/ACRRM. It is recommended that you contact your RTO/ME to clarify any specific requirements in relation to your specific circumstances and training progression while working from home.