December 17, 2020

Is home working here to stay – part 2

When writing the last article on this topic, the furlough scheme was due to come to an end and the Job Support Scheme was due to come into play. Fast forward and the furlough scheme has been extended until March 2021.

This may or may not have affected your decision making with many businesses having staff working from home more regularly anyway, but what changes from a contractual and process basis do you need to make if staff are working from home on a temporary or permanent basis.

  • Should I introduce a working from home policy? In short yes, providing a working from home policy is good policy and provides clear guidance to your staff however is more good practice than a legal obligation.
  • Do I need to perform Risk assessments for home workers? the obligation here, like in the office or workplace is generally the responsibility of the employer. This means you have responsibility for an employee’s welfare and health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable. A risk assessment is an effective way of finding out what the risks might be, so that the employer can carry out that responsibility.
  • Do I need to provide any equipment that staff may need to work from home? Yes, you’re required to provide any equipment the employee needs in the performance of their duties.

If there are any special equipment requirements that employees need (Display Screen Equipment etc) then their home environment might be less suited than the office so we would recommend doing a workstation assessment.

  • Can I use tracking software the equipment we provide to track the work staff are doing from home? There is no obligation to use any however some companies consider it good practice. If you’re going to use tracking software. Our advice that it’s good practice to have a formal policy on this that details what is being tracked and what data might be used (you would also spill into GDPR regulation to so something extra to be aware of). If you’re not going to use a formal policy you will at minimum be required to inform the employee that they are being tracked, what is being tracked and what the data might be used for.
  • What type of access do I have to my employees at home? this is an obligation on the employee’s part and should be covered off within the WFH policy. You should also consider the effects of lone working and might consider having a policy that outlines how employees should manage the effects of home working. The HSE notes that if communication is poor whilst employees are working from home, this may have a negative impact on stress or mental health issues, or could mean that where these issues exist, the employer is unaware of them and unable to take action. A stress and mental health policy might also be helpful, , although it should not be case of drafting a policy and doing nothing with it. You should also take steps to have regular contact with staff working from home.
  • Can I still ask the employees to come into the workplace when I need (restrictions allowing) them? It is important to make employees aware that the working from home situation although long-term, is not permanent, and therefore the place of work in their contract should remain their place of work. Therefore, you should be able to require the employee to work in the workplace when it is safe to do so.
  • Do I need to contribute to bills and expenses when an employee is working from home? There’s no obligation to contribute to a home-worker’s bills and expenses. As normal. the employee should be able to expense direct costs incurred such as charges on personal phones or consumables like printer paper etc. but you should be cautious about offering to pay for more than this, as this could be open to abuse. Alternatively, you may want to draw employees’ attention to the tax relief offered by HMRC for those who are having to work from home.
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