Request for a desk denied by Employer is “plainly” reasonable

A decision of McKean v Red Energy Pty Ltd [2020] FWC 5688 involving an employee of electricity and gas provider, Red Energy who was a work from home employee due to COVID-19 gave a very reasonable direction to deny a request for a desk.  The Fair Work Commission finding that it was “plainly” reasonable to refuse the provision of a desk as they had already provided a number of items including:

  • Online training and resources
  • Access to an occupational therapist
  • Ergonomic assessment
  • Laptop computer
  • Headset
  • Chair

The employee once being denied the desk request also requested 6 weeks “leave” which was denied by the employer and on that basis the employee resigned. The employee later filed an unfair dismissal claim – arguing the resignation was forced (constructive dismissal).

The claim was soundly dismissed for a number of reasons however a few of the reasons are very significant for the purpose of dealing with work from home employees:

  • Reasonable rejection – It was reasonable to reject the request for the employer to purchase a desk for the employee
  • Reasonable direction – It was a reasonable direction for the employee to work from home
  • Reasonable refusal – It was reasonable to refuse the request for 6 weeks leave especially as the employer was provided very little notice to approve the request
  • Not a forced resignation – Forced resignation or constructive dismissal must meet a number of elements – this was not a situation where an employee resigned in the “heat of the moment” it was moreso a situation where an employee disliked a decision by an employer and “entirely without merit” wanted to take action on “principle”

As the lawyers for employers, we assist employers dealing with work from home employees. Should you require assistance please contact us to arrange an obligation free consultation on +61 (07) 3876 5111

Written By

Jonathan Mamaril

Principal

NB Lawyers – Lawyers for Employers

jonathanm@nb-lawyers.com.au

+61 (07) 3876 5111

About the Author

Jonathan Mamaril leads a team of handpicked experts in the areas of employment law and commercial law at NB Lawyers – Lawyers for Employers who focus on educating clients to avoid headaches, provide advice on issues before they fester and when action needs to be taken and there is a problem mitigate risk and liability. With a core value of helping first and providing practical advice, Jonathan is a sought after advisor to a number of Employers and as a speaker for forums and seminars where his expertise is invaluable as a leader in this area as a lawyer for employers.

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