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To: Mark Scott, Vice Chancellor, University of Sydney

Respect Remote Working Autonomy for Staff

In his email of 9 August, the Vice Chancellor said The University of Sydney is “considering adopting a general expectation… that colleagues will spend more of their time on campus than working remotely.” This one-size-fits-all approach to remote working disadvantages some staff more than others. To be truly flexible, inclusive and equitable, work arrangements must not be rigidly prescriptive. This is particularly important for:

• staff whose disability/chronic health condition may not conveniently flare up on a pre-agreed schedule (eg maximum two days a week) and/or for whom working from home may, at times, be a reasonable workplace adjustment that does not require disclosure of one’s personal health status to superiors/colleagues;

• parents—more often women, thus a gender equity issue;

• elder-carers (more often women), especially those for whom exposure to Covid or influenza in their workplace may place the lives of the elders they care for at risk;

• Indigenous staff when they do not need to take Indigenous Cultural and Ceremonial leave but might benefit, at times, from working remotely/on country;

• staff who cannot afford to live near campus and can repurpose commuting time to improve their productivity and/or their work-life balance;

• staff employed for short blocks of time, making commuting and/or parking fees inefficient/unfeasible;

• staff forced to work in open plan areas where they cannot concentrate/ work efficiently.

Why is this important?

Providing truly flexible work arrangements engenders staff goodwill and loyalty by:

a) trusting us to make conscientious, responsible decisions about when it is more productive to work remotely and;

b) acknowledging that some of us may find it more productive to work fewer days on campus at different times, for example during school terms, over semester breaks, according to our health status or cultural commitments and/or depending on the type of work we are doing at the time.

By enabling less commuting, more flexible remote working options also enhances our sustainability strategy and improves work/life balance.

Whereas, the VC’s proposal to work more days from campus than from home contradicts The University’s:

• commitment to “support flexible working arrangements where reasonably possible” in the latest EBA (Clause 215) and explicit commitment to “providing flexible working options for all staff”;

• aspiration to be an “employer of choice for people with disability”;

• commitment to “equity, diversity and inclusion throughout the University”.

We, the undersigned University of Sydney employees reject the Vice Chancellor’s “general expectation… that colleagues will spend more of their time on campus than working remotely.” We instead demand that management honours its commitment in the clause 215 of the Enterprise Agreement to allow professional staff to work remotely where “the staff member is able to satisfactorily complete the requirements of the role” and to also trust academic staff to choose when and how often to work on campus, thus ensuring an inclusive, progressive, supportive and productive working environment for all of The University of Sydney’s highly diverse workforce.
Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia

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2023-09-13 17:35:45 +1000

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