As lockdown restrictions are being eased, organisations need to focus on their work force and how best to adapt to the ‘new normal’. It is very likely that homeworking will become part of that ‘new normal’ for many businesses, and even if it is only on a temporary basis, it is probable that homeworking will continue in some form in most businesses for the remainder of 2020. So, what should you be doing to make sure homeworking works for your business?
1. Get a Homeworking policy!
The best place to start is to put in place a homeworking policy that governs how homeworking works in your business. It should contain rules about how people are expected to work, deal with work equipment and health and safety and should also cover how people can apply for homeworking.
If you have a homeworking policy in place already, review whether it fits your current needs. Does it deal properly with reporting absence, childcare responsibilities and how homeworking may come to an end?
You should also consider whether you need to tailor standard employment contract clauses to encompass homeworking, for example, to include the right to enter the home to inspect Company property, documents or carry out risk assessments.
2. Hours of work
Consider the hours that your staff are working. If they usually do a 9-5 day, do they need to stick to this or, can they work the hours that suit them as long as they get the job done?
If you are going to be flexible, consider whether you need to implement core hours to ensure teams can have virtual meetings and customer needs are met.
Thought should be given to where employees are working from. It is usually assumed that staff that are homeworking are working from their home address, however, they may wish to work from other locations, such as coffee shops, libraries or the houses of family.
It is important to set out what the expectation is and consider how issues such as confidentiality and health and safety can be managed if the place of work varies.
You should also consider how often, and when, staff may need to attend the workplace. As lockdown is eased further, it is important to ensure you are properly staffed to meets the needs of the business.
4. Work equipment and costs
A common issue with homeworking is who is responsible for providing the equipment and paying the bills. Many employers will provide some equipment like a laptop and a phone, however, sometimes it may be appropriate to go further and provide things like a printer, desk and chair. This should be assessed on an individual basis.
It should be clear who will be responsible for the associated costs of working from home such as the electricity, internet, phone bills and other expenses.
Consideration should be given to whether the individual has the appropriate house insurance and if not, who will pay for any additional premiums.
5. Health and Safety
Employers are responsible for their employee’s welfare, health and safety and this extends to those working from home.
You should ensure staff understand they are responsible for taking proper rest breaks and taking reasonable care of their own health and safety.
You should also consider whether you need to be conducting risk assessments of the home work space.
6. Confidentiality and data protection
All employees have an implied duty not to disclose confidential information or use it for any purpose other than the employer’s business. In practice, however, confidentiality is more difficult for an employer to police when the employee is working from home.
It is good practice therefore, to ensure you have an express confidentiality clause in the employees’ contract. In addition, you should ensure that you set out their responsibilities to keep information secure for example, having a secure filing cabinet, confidential waste bin, and preventing family members gaining access to both physical and electronic files.
Homeworkers may need specific training on their data protection obligations, the procedures which they must follow, and what is, and is not, an authorised use of data. Employers should also consider whether they need to carry out a data privacy impact assessment for those working from home.
7. Staff management
There are staff management issues to consider when individuals are working from home. For example –
While an employee who works at home will have the same entitlement to sick pay as any other employee, the reporting mechanism may need to be adjusted. It should be clearly communicated to those working from home that they must report any absence due to sickness as if they were coming into the office.
b. Performance management
Both the homeworker and the employee may be concerned about monitoring the work that is undertaken so thought should be given to how the quality and quantity of work output will be reviewed.
A reporting system should be agreed at the outset of the arrangement where possible.
8. Mental health and work life balance
Some homeworkers may have difficulty enforcing boundaries between work and home life, leading to an increased risk of stress. They may become isolated and lack the support networks available to those who work in the office.
Employers should be aware of this issue, consider steps to monitor work and stress levels and try to integrate homeworkers into the team where possible.
Giving consideration to all of the above matters and ensuring that the right paperwork and processes are in place, will help make sure that homeworking does not have a negative impact on the productivity of staff or the success of the business.
It will also reduce the risk of homeworking requests or existing arrangements being dealt with unfairly or in a discriminatory manner.
BHW Solicitors have experience in providing advice and support in relation to all aspects of homeworking and flexible working. If you have any questions or need any assistance, then please contact Employment Partner, Amanda Badley, on 0116 402 9019 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.