…and the importance of contractual considerations.
Review your homeworking Policy: Make sure it addresses how employees will be managed, how line managers will communicate with them and how performance and output will be monitored. Homeworking arrangements can be confirmed by a consent form, detailed homeworking arrangement or, after consultation and agreement with individuals, amendments to the employee contract.
Confirm employee rights: Homeworkers have the same rights as office-based staff and need the same access to development and promotional opportunities. Employers may wish to state that any changes are temporary and that the employee will return to office-based working once the current situation ends. Relevant Trade Unions (where appropriate) should be engaged to ensure equal treatment for workers.
Confirm contact systems in place and regularity: Work with homeworkers and advise and establish when and how they will have contact with their line manager. Regular ‘reporting-in’ can help combat isolation and stress.
Provide the necessary equipment: Whilst there is no obligation for employers to provide computer or other equipment necessary for working at home, the latest Government advice states that employers should do what they can to enable home working. It’s a good idea to list the equipment supplied within the home working agreement, agreed consent or Homeworking policy. It’s also worth remembering that the provision of equipment may be necessary as a reasonable adjustment for disabled employees and may therefore be the safest option for those with existing health conditions, or pregnant employees.
Consider IT and Broadband facilities: The contractual arrangements should confirm whether the employee is expected to cover broadband costs (plus heating and lighting) or whether the employer will contribute towards these costs and, if so, to what extent. The employer should also confirm any IT support (which currently may be remotely based) and responsibility for repair or replacement should the employee be using their own equipment.
Health and Safety obligations: Employers are responsible for an employee’s health, safety and welfare, even when they’re working from home. Employers need to ensure homeworkers are knowledgeable about health and safety and that they comply with the organisation’s health and safety policy. Employers can notify their homeworkers that they should ensure a suitable and safe environment where they can focus on work.
Sickness and Absence when working from home: Employees should be reminded of the ongoing need to comply with the company sickness and absence policy and report sickness to their line manager, in the usual way when they are unable to attend work due to sickness, or for any other reason, such as requiring emergency time off for dependents.
Risk Assessments: Employers should usually conduct risk assessments of all work activities carried out by employees working from home. However, currently undertaking physical risk assessments of every employee’s home may not be feasible and so employers can instead use electronic risk assessment questions. It is then the responsibility of the employee to address any flaws in the home revealed by the assessment and to raise them with their employer. Health and Safety legislation also puts some responsibility on homeworkers to ensure that they and members of the household are not endangered by work activities undertaken at home.
Review and agree working time: Consider whether employees will need to be available for work during strict office hours or whether they will work a specified a set number of hours per day. Although there is often more flexibility over working hours in a working from home arrangement, working time regulations (WTR) should still be complied with, including considerations of the working week and daily rest breaks. Line Managers will need to be attuned to looking for signs of overwork in their teams.
Clarify salary, benefits, home insurance and tax: Although salary and benefits should remain the same during a period of homeworking, changes to expenses may be relevant if normal travel expenses and allowances are not needed. Usually, it’s the employee’s responsibility to check there are no issues of homeworking with their mortgage provider, landlord, local authority, Revenue, or home insurer. During current Covid-19 restrictions, whilst it’s hoped that any issues, such as increases in house insurance premiums, would be minimal, employees should be advised to check their insurance covers business equipment in the homeworker’s premises.
Data protection: It’s important for employers to make sure data protection obligations are maintained and employees using their own computer should still process information in compliance with data protection principles. Employers should remind employees about home security, confidential information, passwords, shredding and encrypting data.
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