As a new Covid-19 wave sweeps the community, the Finance Sector Union has released a ranking of the workplace flexibility offered by Australia’s banks and has written to major employers to remind them of the important role flexibility plays in ensuring worker health and safety (a copy of that letter can be found here).
Based on surveys of the policies of 30 banks and credit unions, the Banking Scorecard gave five banks “red lights” over their failure to take seriously the need of many workers to work from home and another eight have been given “yellow lights” with a serious need of improvement.
Westpac and NAB were among the banks to be given “yellow lights” well behind their Big Four competitors in terms of workplace flexibility. Among the poorest performers, smaller banks such as the Bendigo/Adelaide Bank, Bank of Australia, Bank of Us, Qudos Bank and SERVICE ONE Mutual scored ‘red lights’ for failing to provide any information about their policies.
FSU National Secretary Julia Angrisano said Westpac and the NAB had ‘Working from home’ policies which were unclear and needed further development or clarification.
“NAB staff are telling us they’re being forced to attend the office up to 2 to 3 days a week, despite raising concerns about Covid-19 safety measures. Westpac staff say they don’t know how to apply to work from home and are being required to attend the office despite health concerns. Our members are being told it is mandatory to return to office and that if they don’t they’ll face disciplinary action.” Ms Angrisano said
“As two highly transmissible strains of Covid, circulate in the community, it is more important than ever that finance sector workers are able to protect themselves and their families by being given a clear option to work from home. We are hearing that our members are genuinely frightened at the prospect of getting sick at work and passing it onto their families. Our Banking Scorecard will help inform our members which employers take their safety seriously.” Ms Angrisano said.
The FSU believes best practice for working from home includes:
- An employee must have the right to disconnect from work outside their nominated working hours.
- Employees should not be encouraged to be constantly connected to the workplace through benefits or rewards programs.
- Employees working from home should not be disadvantaged or discriminated against.
- Employees should be able to enter in and out of work from home arrangements based on their personal circumstances, responsibilities and preferences.
- Employees should not bear the costs of setting up or continuing work from home arrangements.
- Occupational health and safety risks and hazards found in the work from home environments must be managed in the same way as they would be in the workplace environment.
Comments from bank workers:
- My employer has a duty of care towards the health and safety of its employees. I obviously pointed out about the surge in cases and new variants etc. My manager said we had to return and only a medical certificate from a doctor would allow people to be exempt.
- The commute home was a nightmare as I hardly saw anyone wearing mask and being flu season and the risk of Covid…I feel scared going into the office the next fortnight… The last communication from the top about 1-2 weeks ago stated that “hub days” and one-off meetings are non-negotiable and that you have to come in as there is no jobs available that it purely work from home!
- We have been instructed that we need 70% of our workforce back in office everyday so it’s going to be very limited people allowed to work at home, yet McGowan says we should work from home if we can. My team are all feeling the pressure and hesitant
- We are being asked to return to the office as of Monday 18th July 2022. The issue of rising cases and different emerging variants has been raised with management and they are adamant that all colleagues should now return to work as no roles are 100% working from home? Returning to the office …should not be done at the expense of our health being compromised
- In my area, they wanted us to return to work in May, there was basically no choice. I went to work in mid-June and three team members ended up catching Covid, unfortunately I was one of them! And last week even though there was to be big disruptions with the trains, some of our Team Leaders wanted people in the office.