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Uncapped WFH days welcomed: But could CBD businesses be in trouble?

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Australian public sector workers have been granted unlimited work-from-home days, with the decision a massive win for flexibility in the sector. However, some believe this decision could kill CBD businesses.

The Commonwealth Public Service Union (CPSU) announced the achievement earlier this month, with some of the changes including:

  • Rights for all APS employees – all APS employees will be able to make a request for a flexible working arrangement, including working from home.
  • No caps – the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has agreed to the CPSU claim for no caps to be imposed on the number of days they can work from home in a week.
  • Refusal in certain circumstances only – agencies will only be able to refuse requests after genuinely trying to reach an agreement, considering the employee’s circumstances, and only if there are clear business reasons not to approve.
  • Independent umpire oversight – if an agency doesn’t genuinely try to reach an agreement and follow the required steps for considering requests, the CPSU can support members to resolve the issue with their agency, and where necessary, the decision can be challenged in the Fair Work Commission.
  • Roles performed in wider locations – enterprise agreements will acknowledge the benefits of flexible work to facilitate APS capability and work being performed in a wider range of locations across Australia.

Melissa Donnelly, CPSU national secretary, commented: “Groundbreaking flexible work and working-from-home rights have been secured in negotiations between the union and the APSC.”


“These significantly improved and enforceable flexible work rights will open doors for individuals who were previously unable to consider APS employment, or had to leave because of a change in circumstances.”

She continued: “The traditional approach to APS work has hindered the attraction and retention of staff across the service. Flexibility in how, when and where public sector work is done will see the APS become increasingly diverse, adaptable and accessible. This is good news for public servants, public services, public policy, and the public.”

While this decision is no doubt a win for public sector workers and a welcome boost to flexibility, others are opposed to the decision.

Namely, Property Council’s South Australian executive director Bruce Djite, who told ABC News that this decision could have detrimental consequences for businesses that rely on workers being onsite.

“This cannot possibly set a precedent for South Australia – it would be a death knell for the city,” said Mr Djite.

“Working from home in an uncapped manner would seriously cause significant damage to the economic vibrancy of the CBD. It would kill thousands of businesses.”

In South Australia alone, the public service employs over 100,000 people. Mr Djite argued that this decision would see a significant loss of these potential customers: “[It] would be like COVID without the health challenges.”

While only commenting on the impact this decision will have on Adelaide’s economy, there’s no doubt this decision could see similar consequences in all cities.

This creates a juggling act for leaders, who are forced to choose between the businesses they support and the flexibility of their employees.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.