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.
The Government published guidelines on 23 March 2020 concerning house sales.
Estate Agents have been required to close their offices and although staff are allowed to work from home they must not attend properties for any reason.
Therefore, if the property has not yet been put onto the market you will be unable to obtain a proper valuation at present. Also, restrictions on movement means that people must not view properties in person. Therefore you ought to delay marketing.
If you have found a buyer and the property is empty then the transaction can go ahead but you may experience delays in the transaction. For example, if your buyer needs a mortgage there will be a delay in getting a mortgage offer and even if it’s a cash purchase there are likely to be delays with Local Authority Searches.
You should discuss with your conveyancer whether to include special contract conditions. These could take into account what happens if the buyer or someone in the chain falls ill between exchange and completion and cannot move on the anticipated completion date.
If you have exchanged contracts the Government guidelines indicate that the sale of an empty property can go ahead to completion. However, if the contents of the property have not been removed you may have difficulty getting it cleared. Similarly, your buyer or someone else in the conveyancing chain may find that their removers are unable to move them. If this happens, you ought to discuss this with your conveyancer and your buyer as soon as possible to see if completion can be delayed to a later date.Read more about this
As long as you can demonstrate that you have exercised reasonable care in determining status you have discharged your obligations in that respect. However, if you are unable to demonstrate this, you may as the end user client be responsible for the contractor’s tax and NIC’s.Read more about this
During these unusual times, we are all having to adapt to what has become the ‘new normal’ and implement changes in how we carry out civil cases. If you are to give evidence in a remote hearing, whether this is by Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business or the Cloud Video Platform, we have pulled together a quick and useful guide below on what would be expected by the courts:
Before the hearing
- Make sure that you have access to the video-conferencing software that will be needed for the hearing. We will tell our clients and their witnesses in advance which platform will be used. The courts have increasingly been using Skype for Business to conduct the hearings (but you may find other platforms being used)
- Test that your camera and microphone are working and it is clear to see/hear you.
- Dress appropriately, as if it was an in-person hearing, and use the same formalities.
- Ensure that the background which is visible on your screen is appropriate and allows for your face to be clearly seen. A ‘blur background’ option may also be available on your settings which you may prefer.
- Make sure that your mobile phone is on silent and you are in a location where there will be no/minimal distractions. You should be on your own in a room when giving evidence, however, as we have all experienced with working from home, sometimes interruptions such as children appearing cannot be avoided.
- Join the call ahead of the allocated time, in order to allow for any small technical difficulties.
During the hearing
- Have a copy of the hearing bundle to hand, so that you can follow the proceedings (this may be in hard copy or soft copy). You are not allowed any other notes or papers, whether hard copy or electronic, in front of you when giving evidence.
- Unless addressing the Judge or you have been directly asked a question, keep your microphone muted.
- When giving evidence, you must make sure both your camera and your microphone are switched on.
- Remote hearings can be difficult and if you do not understand or you do not hear a question properly, then do ask for the question to be repeated/re-framed.
- You should not move away from the screen without permission from the Judge. The Judge will allow time for breaks.
- Address the judiciary and other advocates the same way as you would if you were in a physical courtroom.
- It is permitted to drink water throughout the hearing, but mugs of tea and/or coffee are probably best avoided. It is also not permitted to eat food during the hearing.
- Don’t panic if someone walks into the room or the dog starts barking because there is a knock at the door. Judges are only too aware about what might happen. Communication is key and if the interruption has interfered with your train of thought or the evidence you are giving then do say so.
- Be aware that all evidence is recorded and that a transcript of all evidence can be obtained at a later date.
- Yes, and this includes furloughed employees under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
- Employers must continue to assess their new employees or newly eligible existing employees and enrol them where required, but can make use of the statutory postponement procedure which allows them to delay for up to three months the assessment of new employees for the purpose of enrolment (see further details here on the Pensions Regulator’s website). Declarations of compliance for new employers must still be completed in the normal way.
- Postponement cannot be used for re-enrolment. The Regulator recommends employers use the re-enrolment date tool on the Regulator’s website to choose a date up to three months after the third anniversary of enrolment to assess staff for re-enrolment. Further information about employers’ obligations about reenrolment from the Pensions Regulator can be found here. Re-declarations of compliance for new employers must still be completed in the normal way.
At 10am on the 21st July, we hosted the fourth of our “in conversation…” webinars, this time featuring the ninth largest private bank in the world, Swiss-based Julius Baer. Ward Hadaway partner Emma Digby once again lead the conversation, this time with Luke Downes and Darren Hirst from their investment and relationship teams on “Market outlooks – the before, during and after”. They were joined by Andrew Evans from our private client team to feed in his perspective. This will be of interest to individuals who are thinking about investment portfolios and pension pots, but also businesses keen to see how investors are viewing their sectors, markets and customers.
Luke and Darren took us through how the markets looked pre-Covid, how they responded to the pandemic, and obviously most importantly what we might expect going forwards. They took a look at the sectors that are seeing the quickest bounce-back, discuss which countries are likely to be the most attractive for investors, and where the long term financial gains are expected to be. They also touched on that imminent event, shrouded in mist recently but no less significant – Brexit! What is the expected effect on the markets, and who are likely to be the winners and the losers?Read more about this