Barr to take concerns over APS flexible work to National Cabinet


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Public servants employed by the ACT government have been transitioning to flexible work arrangements during the coronavirus pandemic, according to chief minister Andrew Barr.

On Wednesday morning Barr told ABC News he was concerned that many APS employees have continued to work from their offices rather than at home, risking the spread of the virus.

“I’ve obviously had a lot of people raise concerns with me that public service departments are being deemed as essential, and in many instances that is absolutely the case,” he said.

“But there does need to be some flexibility around work from home arrangements where that’s suitable.

“It means there will be fewer people in government office buildings and physical distancing is easier to achieve.

“The ACT government, for our own employees, is making that transition.”

He said he would raise the issue with state and federal leaders at the National Cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday night.

The Community and Public Sector Union has also voiced its concerns over federal departments and agencies “blocking working from home arrangements or unnecessarily delaying their implementation”.

“This is reckless and short-sighted,” the CPSU said in a statement.

The union’s national secretary Melissa Donnelly said some agencies had been “dragging their heels” on implementing flexible working arrangements.

“The Australian Tax Office are ready to move most functions to remote work but are dragging their feet due to the mixed messages from the Prime Minister. Conversely, we are seeing agencies such as the NDIA and the Ombudsman moving all public interactions to phone but are blocking staff from remote work,” she said.

“The CPSU is calling on the Morrison Government to ensure all public sector workers who can, must be allowed and supported to work from home. We must flatten the curve, and this move is critical.”

She noted that for some key front-line services, including Services Australia, working from home “is a more complicated proposition”.

“Where services cannot close, social distancing must be enforced, even if this means moving workers or call centres to other buildings, nothing should be off the table,” she said.

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