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Working from home – Employer obligations Side Arrow

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As homeworking or ‘agile working’ looks set to become the new norm for many, it’s important employers and employees understand legal obligations.  Both parties should be practical, flexible and sensitive to each other’s situation.

When making decisions about working from home, it’s important employers and employees communicate regularly. For example, to discuss:

  • which roles can and cannot be done from home
  • who may or may not want to work from home
  • any concerns and how best to handle them.

This can also help make sure that decisions about working from home are fair and avoid discriminatory behaviour against a particular group, such as older or younger workers.

Employers should also talk with any trade union or other employee representatives. If an employer has an existing agreement with a recognised trade union about working from home, for example, an agreed homeworking policy, they must consult the union if considering any changes.

An employee’s pay and other terms and conditions of their employment will generally stay the same, apart from having to work from home. Employees working from home are still covered by the law on working hours as well.

Employers should also talk to their employees and any representatives about who will cover any extra costs employees might have. If a homeworking expenses policy has been previously agreed with a union, the employer must agree to any changes with the union.

Where expenses are not covered by an employer, then employees may be able to make separate claims for home working expenses via HM Revenue & Customs here.

Employers might find it more difficult to manage employees while they are working from home. They might monitor activities at work in various ways, e.g. looking at the use of email, checking website visits, recording or listening to phone calls.

However, it’s also important to trust employees to do their job. If monitoring is too extreme or does not respect the employee’s privacy, it can damage trust in the employer, cause stress and reduce productivity.

Although there is no statutory right under English law that prevents monitoring, certain legislation, including Article 8 of the Human Rights Act (which protects the right to respect for private life, family life, one’s home and correspondence) may come into play if an employer acts inappropriately.

Employers should also remember that employees are entitled to some privacy at work, including when they are working from home.

Employees need to have the right equipment and technology to work from home effectively. This can also help avoid extra stress and prevent poor productivity.

Things employers, employees and any representatives should agree on include:

  • what’s needed to do the job, for example, a reliable and secure internet connection or a suitable desk and chair
  • who will provide or cover the costs of equipment and repairs
  • technical support for setting up any new equipment or technology, including any training.

Employers should have clear policies around work equipment and technology, including:

  • how to report any issues and to whom, for example, the IT team
  • how they will monitor use and handle information
  • rules around data protection and cybersecurity
  • what to do if a work device is lost or stolen.

Employers should regularly check with employees to assess how technology and equipment are working, and make any improvements.

Employees should also check there are no issues with insurance cover working from home. It’s a good idea for employers to remind their employees to check this. Employers should also make sure their insurance covers employees working from home.

How we can help

Given the changes to working practices at many businesses, employers should review existing employment contracts and amend any existing homeworking policies to reflect the realities of current working arrangements.

If you need advice on flexible or remote working, please speak to our team today for advice and support.

For more information please consult our Employment Law Expert: