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In brief

In the current pandemic, many employers have been required to rapidly shift to a remote working model. This shift has raised a number of issues which employers have had to consider, including how best to monitor remote workers’ hours of work, how to appropriately supervise and mentor them, and how to appropriately address health and safety obligations outside the usual office environment.

With the tightening of Australia’s border controls restricting the ability of individuals to travel overseas and back again, employers are now also grappling with situations where employees who have travelled outside Australia are requesting the ability to work remotely whilst overseas.

This may arise where an employee has travelled to provide care and support to a family member overseas, or to attend a funeral, and is unable to return to Australia in the short term due to caps on arrivals and the limited and expensive nature of inbound flights. It may also arise where an employee has simply opted to temporarily relocate to another country to be near family or take advantage of a lower cost of living whilst they are unable to attend the office for work. There may also be situations where an employer wants to recruit an employee who is currently based overseas but who is unable to travel to Australia in the short term to take up the new employment.

In these circumstances, employers must be mindful of additional risks and practicalities which will need to be taken into account when considering whether to approve a request to work remotely.

Set out below is a summary of the key risks and issues which employers should consider, in addition to the usual concerns associated with remote working, before agreeing to allow an employee to work remotely outside of Australia.

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Michael has more than 15 years' experience as an employment law and industrial relations lawyer, acting for clients in a range of industries, including banking and finance, insurance, health and pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, real estate, media and entertainment, information technology and professional services. He has developed and published compliance programs and best practice policies locally and within Asia Pacific. He is the author and a developer of CCH’s Employment Contracts Manager, a software package that builds and tailors smart employment contracts. He has also authored a large number of chapters in every edition of CCH’s Australian Master Human Resources Guide. Articles written by Michael on employment law topics have appeared in the Melbourne University Law Review, CFO Magazine, Human Capital, Lawyers Weekly, Human Resources, and CCH’s Employment Law Bulletin. He has also spoken at events arranged by the College of Law, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, and various professional associations. He wrote and produced “Dismissal Impossible,” a training video on unfair dismissal and sexual harassment, for the Australian Stock Exchange. Michael regularly conducts employment-related litigation before State and Federal courts and industrial tribunals at an original and appellate level.

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