Some departments are still making staff report to the office despite a direction from the Public Service Commissioner to make working from home the default.
Services Australia staff have been told they must all continue to report to the office, unless they had existing work from home arrangements in place.
Services Australia staff were told in an email from the chief executive on Monday morning that as the department's work was an essential service, working from the office was still the expectation.
"The APS Commissioner has provided guidance to agency heads regarding working from home where practical to do so," the email said.
"Our work is an essential service, and our role in providing services to the community right now is critical. At this stage unless you already have a work-from-home arrangement I ask that you come to the office."
The Canberra Times has heard from workers across the agency, many of whom are not in customer-facing work, that they are still required to attend the office, even if they are immunocompromised, or have family members who are.
Some are told their position isn't senior enough to be assigned a laptop, and others are concerned that social distancing isn't possible in their offices, especially with an influx of new staff as the agency has been overwhelmed with new clients.
An email to Services Australia staff late on Monday evening included extra considerations for vulnerable employees, but said discussion with a doctor may be needed before working from home arrangements were approved.
Staff at other departments, including health and defence, also report their instructions on working from home haven't changed since Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott's direction to agency heads.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on Monday he had brought up working from arrangements for the federal public service at nearly every national cabinet meeting.
He said public servants who were facing barriers to working from home during the coronavirus crisis should contact their union, or even his office.
- Are you a federal public servant who has been told you still have to come into work? Email email@example.com
Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott told department heads on Sunday night they should arrange for their workers to report for duty remotely "as soon as practicable".
Before the direction from Mr Woolcott, public servants said their requests to work from home were being refused, at the same time as Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asking the private sector to keep workers at home.
Instructions from managers about working from home have been inconsistent, with concerns a lack of equipment was stopping people from working from home.
"People who are still experiencing problems, raise them with your manager, your union, and ultimately you can raise them with me as well and I will hand those on to ensure that we get to the place we need to be on this as soon as possible," Mr Barr said.
He said it was pleasing to see the change in instructions for the federal public service, and acknowledged there were some roles that couldn't be done from home.
Services Australia spokesman Hank Jongen said the well-being of staff and customers was the agency's top priority.
"We're working hard to balance the needs of our staff while delivering critical payments to the millions of Australians relying on us," he said.
"Services Australia is acting in line with the direction given by the Australian Public Service Commissioner. Our work in the coronavirus response is classed as an essential service, and our role in providing services to the community right now is critical."
Services Australia was following instructions from the Department of Health in terms of social distancing, increased cleaning and minimal face to face meetings, he said.
"We know some of our staff are at greater risk than others and we are actively working with people in this category to consider options, like working from home, consistent with medical advice."
"We'll continue to closely monitor staff welfare and adapt within the rapidly changing situation."
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