Following strong CPSU advocacy on working from home rights, the APSC has released updated guidance with a much clearer and stronger emphasis on working from home (WFH) as an ongoing COVID control measure.

CPSU representatives have been pushing for a consistent approach to working from home arrangements across the APS, after a number of agencies dragged their feet on responding to the current Omicron case surge.

The updated APSC guidance will enable safer workplaces and more timely response to the emergence of potential new COVID strains and outbreaks in future.

"Given the emergence of new COVID variants, agencies should remain flexible in responding and adapting to changes in such advice," the commission's new guidance says.

While the use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) is not specifically mentioned in the updated APSC guidance, it does say agencies are responsible for determining how to support employees get tested to maintain critical functions. This is an indication that there may finally be a move on use of RATs in the APS.

The CPSU supports the push by the ACTU and the union movement for free and accessible RATs for the whole community.

In the APS, the CPSU is calling for federal public servants who need to attend the workplace or those exposed to COVID in the workplace, to be provided with free rapid antigen tests and paid leave while awaiting results.

CPSU representatives will continue to push for an APS-wide approach on RAT testing and supplies. With RAT supplies limited and kits expensive, it is vital that agencies provide their workers with tests and clear guidance on their use to keep workplaces and communities COVID safe.

The future of working from home

The CPSU will continue to have conversations with departments and agencies about the future of hybrid working arrangements post-pandemic and the provision of increased access to WFH.

It is clear the APS can continue to deliver for the community with hybrid working conditions and significant numbers of employees working from home.

For a second year in a row, in 2021 the CPSU collaborated with researchers at CQU and UNSW Canberra, to gather data about the experience of public sector employees working during the COVID-19 crisis. Employees’ perceptions that their productivity was maintained or improved while working from home during the pandemic is supported by managers’ observations. In fact 92% of supervisors said their employees’ productivity was the same or higher working from home.

The full results of this research are due to be released in February.