Public sector agencies will have targets for how many workers should be back in the office under plans to get more people back to work.
Public sector agencies will have targets for how many workers should be back in the office under plans to get more people back to work.

Workers urged to get back to their desks

NSW public sector agencies will have targets for how many workers should be back in the office under plans to get more people back to the city, while the public sector union has called for "flexible start and finish" times for government workers.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she will announce plans "soon" to get more ­people back to the workplace.

"We are looking at having a proactive move to encourage more public servants to come back to work physically," Ms Berejiklian said.

She said the government "will give a target for each agency" on how many workers should be back in the office.

As part of the push to ­reinvigorate the CBD, the ­government has encouraged workers to use free parking at Moore Park or consider off-peak public transport to get into the city.

However, Ms Berejiklian said some multinational corporations are imposing strict rules on their workers in line with guidelines from the northern hemisphere.

"Some businesses might have their global headquarters in the northern hemisphere, which is in a very different situation, and they're actually subject to decisions made overseas, which is also an impediment," she said.

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The Public Service Association said the union was happy to work with government to the return to the workplace is done "safely in accordance with health guidelines".

PSA general secretary Stewart Little flagged "flexibility on start and finish times" would be needed to ensure people can travel to and from the CBD safely.

Unions says planning is required to allow people to social distance on public transport. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Unions says planning is required to allow people to social distance on public transport. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Community and Public Sector Union assistant national secretary Michael Tull said plans needed to take into ­account the difficulties that public transport and lifts in large public service buildings presented to social distancing.

"It is essential that return to work is done safely and sensibly, and in full consultation with employees, unions and health and safety representatives," he said.

Mr Tull said a recent study from the University of NSW found that working from home during the pandemic allowed public sector workers to have more autonomy over their work, be more productive, and was backed by the majority of managers.

"It is essential that return to work is done safely and sensibly, and in full consultation with employees, unions and health and safety representatives. This is the best way to ensure that Australia avoids a dangerous third wave of infections."

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He said the Commonwealth had an obligation to set an example for all employers on how to manage a safe return to work.

"Just because the case numbers are down, that does not mean that people should not adhere to physical distancing requirements," he said.

"Plans need to take into account the difficulties that public transport and lifts in large public service buildings present to social distancing."

City workers are being encouraged to use the free parking area set up at Moore Park. Picture: Richard Dobson
City workers are being encouraged to use the free parking area set up at Moore Park. Picture: Richard Dobson

A spokesman for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said by September 60 per cent of their staff had returned to work in the office.

"As the number of COVID-19 cases stabilises and remains low in most communities, the natural progression is now for employees to return to their usual workplaces in greater number," the spokesman said.

"Agency heads will need to consider things like physical distancing in workplaces, some changed working arrangements around hours where needed, individual circumstances, and the National COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Principles and other regulations."

He said the department's focus was ensuring critical services continued to be delivered in a COVID safe way.

"The Department of PM & C continues to enable the return of employees to work in the office in line with office capacity based on COVID safe workplace rules set in each state and territory."

"During the month of September, approximately 60 per cent of PM & C employees had returned to work in the office on an ongoing basis."

 

Originally published as Workers urged to get back to their desks


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