Back to the office for good or is working from home a new normal?
During the pandemic many employees worked from home. Now that it is safer to return to the workplace, with a highly vaccinated population and the end of New Zealand’s COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system), some employers are strongly encouraging staff to return to the workplace while others are mandating it.
Employees usually have a place of work stated in their employment agreement. If the place of work is the employers’ premise, then employers are within their rights to require that employees return. However, there will be exceptions which must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. For example, exceptions are (but not limited to):
- immunocompromised employees or employees with other severe health conditions
- employees living with others that are immunocompromised
Employers still have health and safety obligations to take all reasonably practicable steps to keep employees safe against Covid in the workplace.
If there is a disagreement between the employee and employer, both parties are obliged to work through these issues in good faith to come to an agreement.
In any case, a fair and reasonable employer should consult with their employee about their preferences and acknowledge any concerns they have. Rice Craig encourages you to seek legal advice if you have any concerns in relation to this. Rani Amaranathan, Special Counsel, specialises in Employment Law and she has recently assisted many employers and employees with similar issues.