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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.

Related FAQs

If an employer identifies that higher PPE spec is required for BAME employees undertaking a particular task, is it necessary to increase the spec for all employees working in that area?

It is. If you assess a risk and identify a control measure then fail to deploy it, then you are breaching your legal duties under HASWA and potentially committing a criminal offence. So if you decide for example that N95 respirators have to be used by everyone, you have a duty to provide them.

So the short answer is yes.

What perceived gaps do you see in the Building Safety Act 2022 (especially in terms of pending consultations and secondary instruments)?Comments on the value of the Martlet v Mulalley judgment in fire safety cases/unsafe cladding cases

The Act was obviously subject to much debate and criticism as the Bill passed through Parliament. It is difficult to properly assess any gaps until after the necessary secondary legislation has been published and comes into force (along with the remainder of the Act), but some of the likely issues include:

  • The impact on the insurance market, and the (lack of) availability and increased cost of insurance in light of the provisions of the Act
  • How the introduction of retrospective claims will affect the market, both in relation to how parties might go about trying to prove matters which are 30 years old, but also the lack of certainty for those potentially on the receiving end of these claims which they previously had by virtue of the Limitation Act provisions
  • Whether the definition of higher risk buildings is correct, or will require some refinement.

The Martlet v Mulalley case provides some useful observations and clarifications, for example that designers cannot necessarily rely on a ‘lemming’ defence that they were simply doing what others were doing at the time, that ‘waking watch’ costs are generally recoverable, and commentary on certain specific Building Regulations. The judgment however made clear that much of the case turned on its specific facts, so it is useful from the perspective of providing some insight as to how the Courts will deal with cladding disputes in future, rather than setting significant precedents to be followed.

Can employers reduce their pension contributions?
  • Yes, if contributions to a defined contribution (“DC”) scheme exceed statutory minimum for auto-enrolment purposes, it may be possible to reduce employer contributions to the statutory minimum, but not further.
  • However, the processes required for reduction of DC employer contributions will necessitate obtaining legal advice:
    • Reducing employer contributions may require changes to the employment contracts of affected staff (as does the furlough process).
    • Reducing employer contributions may also require negotiation with trade unions or other staff representative forums.
    • Where group personal pensions are used, the contractual format may not permit changes of employer contributions, and hence it may also be necessary to enter into a new contractual arrangement. Choosing a new group personal pension plan is a not insignificant task in itself.
    • Employers with at least 50 employees are required to conduct a 60-day consultation process with affected employees if they propose to reduce employer contributions (but please see below).
    • Finally, it may require a change to the scheme rules and engagement with the scheme trustees if the scheme is operated under trust.
  • For DB schemes, specific considerations apply (see the last section, below).
I’m a housing provider. How do I continue to manage disrepair during the coronavirus outbreak?

The practicalities and processes regarding disrepair claims will undoubtedly be affected. Housing providers will have to adopt a risk-based approach and consider government guidance to handle claims going forward. Key points to consider are:

  • Compliance with the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Conditions Claims (particularly disclosure)
  • The practicalities of inspection
  • Non-urgent repairs
Can agency workers be furloughed?

Yes, if they are paid via PAYE. This includes agency workers engaged under umbrella companies.

The furlough should be agreed between the agency (the employer) and the worker and documented in accordance with the guidance. It is recommended that the decision to furlough is discussed with end user clients. Just like other employees, agency workers cannot perform work through or on behalf of the agency while furloughed. This includes work for the client.

For agency staff working under umbrella companies, it is for the umbrella company and the agency worker to agree on furloughing the worker.