18th February, 2021
With the anniversary of lockdown approaching, there are many workers who have now grown used to working from home.
For a lot of people this will have started out on an ad hoc basis, but as employers and employees both see the potential advantages of homeworking, and realise that more can be done remotely than was first thought, it is likely that these arrangements will continue long after lockdown ends. Many businesses will be planning ahead, and thinking about the benefits that can be carried forward as well as the problems that might arise.
One of the first things to think about will be putting any homeworking arrangements on a clear footing. If you already have a homeworking policy or agreement that will be the first place to start. For many, lockdown may have been the first time they considered working from home on a long term basis. It is important to make sure that the arrangement is set out clearly and agreed in writing, including how long it is likely to last, and when and how it might come to an end, how often (if at all) an employee is expected to attend the office, where else they might be expected to work, and how any disputes might be resolved.
Staff will need a secure way of communicating with each other, and whatever systems are used (if the employer provides the IT equipment or not) organisations must consider the data protection and information security implications. It is becoming increasingly normal for some meetings, such as disciplinary or grievance hearings and staff consultations, to be heard by telephone or video conferencing, so it is worth considering how they can be kept private.
Employers must also consider the health, safety and welfare of staff, and this obligation will extend into an employee’s own home if they are using it as their workplace. The risks to be considered include lone working, the working environment (display screen equipment, manual handling, and so on), and stress and mental health issues.
If an employee is expected to work from home primarily but visit various sites, or travel from site to site (mobile working), it is important to consider what journeys may be considered working time, and what expenses an employee may claim for these journeys. There may be other financial implications for these new arrangements, for example, staff may no longer need season ticket loans, car allowances, subsidised parking or other workplace facilities (such as a gym or crèche). Instead, they are likely to swap travel expenses for increased heating and lighting costs. These are the sort of details that a homeworking policy should cover.
Finally, although it is not likely it is possible that homeworking may have an impact on a mortgage or rental agreement, home insurance, and even planning permission or business rates, in which case specialist advice should be sought.
For further information, please get in touch.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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