Workers at one of Australia’s biggest employers have won the permanent right to work from home – worth $10,000 a year in cost savings – while a former state premier is demanding pay cuts for those doing it.
Under a deal agreed with unions, the Australian Public Service will not be able to impose a limit on the number of days its 176,000 employees can work from home.
The federal government spends $1.54 billion — or $9,459 — per employee each year on office rent, leaving many desks empty all or most of the time.
But former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett wants to see the state’s public servants pay cut if they save on costs by working from home.
Meanwhile, Commonwealth Bank employees say they are being treated like ‘kindergarten children’ by logging their attendance on a roll call system before returning to the bank’s mandatory office next week – although the CBA says the system is voluntary.
Mr Kennett’s proposal is designed to get more public sector workers back to work in the office, with those who refuse to do so facing steep pay cuts.
Workers at one of Australia’s biggest employers have won the permanent right to work from home (stock image)
Those who have to pay for travel to work and other related expenses are $10,000 worse off per year than those who work from home. Picture of train passengers
He said that if his plan goes ahead, those who still choose to work from home will be paid less than civil servants who can’t.
These include public health care workers and school support staff who “have no choice but to physically attend their workplace every day,” he said.
Should people who work from home take a pay cut because of the money they save on travel?
Federal government agencies must approve WFH requests with a presumption to ‘lean toward approval’.
They can only refuse after trying to reach a genuine agreement and have a reasonable business reason not to approve.
Workers can challenge the refusal to the Fair Work Commission.
The new deal marks a stark change in attitude from the previous Coalition government, which told public service bosses it wanted staff to ‘show up’, leading agencies to limit work from home.
Mr Kennett, who was premier of Victoria from 1992 to 1999, came up with the idea as part of a solution to his state’s debt crisis, which is set to reach $171.4 billion by 2027.
‘Obviously, the financial situation in Victoria is such that we cannot afford to raise salaries,’ Mr Kennett told 3AW radio.
‘So the most appropriate approach is if a person chooses to work from home, regardless of the number of days in the week, his salary is reduced through cost cutting.
The outspoken former Liberal premier said many people work from home ‘because they don’t have to go through the trauma of going to and from work, or taking the train or something – they save money and it saves them all the stress’.
Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett (pictured) wants to see state public servants pay cuts if they work from home to match the savings they make on various costs.
An Australian study from 2022 found that those who work full-time from home could save up to $10,000 a year through savings on costs such as transport, tolls and meals.
Public sector workers who had to go to work, on the other hand, were out of pocket, Mr Kennett said.
Public servants in Victoria have to work in the office three days a week.
In May, the CBA ordered its 49,000 workers to return to the office at least 50 percent of the time from July 17, sparking anger among workers.
ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott also entered the work-to-home debate with a different view to his main rival.
He said less than half of ANZ’s staff were in the office on a ‘good day’. ‘We are in a service industry where many people can work from home very successfully.’
In May, the CBA ordered its 49,000 workers to return to the office at least 50 percent of the time from July 17, sparking anger among workers. A woman is depicted at a train station
But Mr Elliott was concerned that younger workers were missing out on being mentored by older colleagues.
‘I worry about the cultural impact – how will young people learn?’ she said.
‘You learn by observing others and being in the room with people and seeing how things are done. I’m worried about it.’
A Victorian government spokesman told News Corp that ‘the government will not take the advice of Jeff Kennett, whose Liberal government has closed hospitals and schools and sacked teachers and nurses.’