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Should I have a homeworking policy?

If organisations don’t have a formal home working policy, then they should set out, as soon as possible, in clear terms, what is expected of employees from a data protection perspective when working from home. These might include:

  • If someone is using their own device for remote working, ensuring that any devices that hold work-related information have up-to-date anti-virus software and that broadband connections have properly configured firewalls
  • Reminding staff to contact the organisation’s IT department if they encounter any issues with home working, and not to try and resolve any issues themselves
  • Reminding staff that they should notify relevant individuals within the organisation if they consider that there might have been a personal data breach. A breach will still be notifiable even if it does occur at home during the pandemic. These should be logged by the organisation in their data breach log in the normal way
  • Ensuring staff lock their devices whenever they are not using them
  • Where possible, working in a separate part of the home to family members
  • Ensuring confidentiality of information – advising staff not to have phone calls where others are likely to hear the conversation. This might mean moving to a different room, closing the door, or arranging a call for a more convenient time. If employees have smart speakers, you may want to consider advising them to either turn these off, if they are working in the same room as it, or work in a different room
  • Wherever possible, avoid taking hard copy documents home, and, if papers are taken home, never placing those papers in a bin or using a home shredder – any such papers should be shredded back at the office in the usual way
  • Locking any papers in a safe place
  • Not using social media platforms (unless already used and permitted by the organisation) to discuss work matters
  • Advising extra caution with incoming emails as at times such as this there may be an increased risk of fraud, email hacking, spear phishing etc.
  • Avoiding information being sent to personal email accounts (for example, so it can then be printed at home)
  • Reminding staff of your organisation’s Information Security policies, procedures and protocols. These could be emailed to all staff working from home or they could be directed to such documents on the organisation’s intranet, for example

Organisations should also ensure that their remote access systems can cope with increased demand.

Whilst the ICO appreciates the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, it does not mean that organisations can forget about their obligations as controllers of personal data. If a major data security breach were to happen, there is still the possibility of enforcement action where the organisation didn’t put in place good risk mitigation measures.

We have a specialist team of data protection lawyers here at Ward Hadaway, and would be happy to discuss any data protection concerns or issues that you might have.