When the Coronavirus pandemic struck and the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, many employees packed up their workplace belongings and started working from home. As we now approach the end of August 2020, it appears that homeworking is here to stay, at least for the time being.
The majority of employers across the country had to quickly adapt their businesses to allow their employees to work from home, whether that was by implementing new computer systems to allow for remote working, or providing their employees with the necessary equipment (laptops, printers etc.) for example. Having now dealt with this initial phase, now is the time for employers to review their homeworking arrangements to ensure that they have in place the necessary policies and procedures to protect both their employees and the business.
Set out below is a checklist of points for employers to address over the coming weeks and months:
- Review and amend the employment contracts of those employees working from home;
- Take appropriate measures to protect confidential information and personal data;
- Decide whether any special equipment should be provided to help employees working from home;
- Implement procedures to ensure that the company is able to manage and supervise those employees working from home – performance reviews and/or appraisals should continue to take place even if they need to be carried out remotely via Zoom or Microsoft Teams for example;
- Put in place a homeworking policy;
- Review the health and safety implications of working from home and ensure that the necessary risk assessments are carried out;
- Review the company’s insurance policies to ensure that any equipment provided to homeworkers is covered;
- Ask employees to ensure that there aren’t any issues with them working from home with their home insurer and/or mortgage provider or landlord; and
- Identify the tax consequences of homeworking.
If the company envisages that employees will be working from home for the long term then their employment contracts should be amended accordingly or alternatively the relevant employees could be issued with entirely new contracts. It is crucial that the company obtains the express written consent of each employee before implementing any contractual changes. Failure to do this could result in the employee resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal.
The following should be considered when seeking to amend/implement new contracts to reflect the new homeworking arrangements:
- Place of work
- Hours of work (e.g. flexible hours, office hours, core time hours)
- Salary and benefits
- Expenses (e.g. travel expenses to attend the workplace, telephone bills, heating and lighting costs)
- Sickness reporting procedures
- Equipment (e.g. what equipment will be used by the homeworker and who will provide and pay for it and who will have access to it)
- Disciplinary rules and procedures – ensure that homeworkers know what is expected of them
- Right to enter – the company should reserve a right to enter the employee’s home, for example, to install, maintain and service its equipment, to recover its property on termination and to carry out risk assessments for health and safety purposes.
As you can imagine, one of the main concerns for an employer with regards to homeworking is data protection.
One way of combatting this concern is to provide specific training to those employees working from home in relation to data protection and confidentiality so that they are aware of the procedures they need to follow and specifically how those procedures work from home.
The employer should also carry out a data privacy impact assessment of the data protection implications of employees working from home.
Health and Safety
Another concern for employers with regards to homeworking is health and safety. An employer still has a duty of care towards its employees and an obligation to comply with the relevant health and safety requirements even where employees are working from the comfort of their own homes.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, states that employers are responsible for an employee’s welfare, health and safety, “so far as is reasonably practicable”. The Company will therefore need to conduct a risk assessment of all the work activities carried out by homeworkers to identify hazards and assess the degree of risk.
Although there is no legal obligation on an employer to provide the necessary equipment for homeworking, it is important that an employer considers each homeworker in isolation to determine whether or not they have any duties towards that specific individual. For example, if the employee has a disability then the company will need to consider whether it would be a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010 to provide the employee with specific equipment to suit their needs.
If you would like assistance with putting in place a home working policy or to discuss any issues addressed in this article please contact us on 02920 345511 or at firstname.lastname@example.org