On 8 December 2021, The Government announced that it would be bringing back some Covid restrictions once again and to be phased in from Friday 10 December 2021. This is as a result of recent data regarding the Omicron variant, which is quickly spreading throughout the UK.
What has changed?
- From Friday 10 December, masks must be worn in most public venues, including theatres and cinemas, unless someone is medically exempt. This will not apply in premises where people are eating or exercising (such as gyms or nightclubs).
- From Monday 13 December, guidance to work from home wherever this is possible will be reintroduced.
- By Wednesday 15 December, Covid passes will become mandatory for nightclubs, unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 5000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
CIPD report that “Whilst employers are likely to be used to swiftly facilitating homeworking now, each instance still comes with its challenges. Employees who don’t have an adequate environment to work in at home due to lack of space or robust internet connection, for example, may struggle to be productive, and others may fear that their mental health will decline after having experienced a similar impact during previous enforced homeworking periods. Employers will need to spend time dealing with individual circumstances to make it work as best it can, and provide support and assistance to those who need it.”
Whether you are implementing home working for the first time or have been doing it for a long time, below, we set out our top tips on the legal and contractual considerations of homeworking.
- Homeworking Policy
Implement a Homeworking Policy if you don’t have one.
Review your homeworking policy if you do have one.
Such a policy should details how employees will be supervised, how the Company and line managers will communicate with the employee and their performance will be monitored.
The homeworking arrangement may be agreed by way of a consent form, detailed homeworking agreements or by way of agreeing amendments to an employee’s current contract of employment.
- Employee Rights.
Those employees that work from home must not be treated any differently to those based in the office, with equal access to development and promotion opportunities.
In the current context, and the change in the Government’s stance on working from home, it may be prudent to expressly state that any changes are temporary and that the employee will, if applicable, return to office-based working once the situation ends and at the request of the employer.
Salary and benefits should remain unchanged during a period of homeworking, although changes to expenses may be appropriate if normal travel expenses and allowances are no longer needed. Usually it is the employee’s responsibility to check that no issues arise with their mortgage provider, landlord, local authority, or their home insurer when homeworking. Employers also need to check that insurance covers business equipment in the homeworker’s premises.
- Confirm Communication frequency and methods.
Line Managers of homeworkers should agree with them the best method of contact and how often they will be in contact. This is especially important to help prevent the feeling of isolation and associated stress.
- Working time
It is important for an employer to agree with the employee what their hours of work will be, there may be some flexibility over working hours in a homeworking situation but it is important to remember that the Working Time Regulations still apply to the total amount of hours worked per week and also the rest breaks that should be taken. Line Managers should discuss breaks and hours with the employee regularly and identify signs of employees working excessively.
- Providing equipment.
It would be considered best practice for an employer to provide a computer and other equipment necessary to facilitate working at home. With this in mind, an employer should also consider drawing up a list of the equipment that has been supplied in the home working agreement, consent or policy.
- IT and Broadband.
It goes without saying that any homeworker will undoubtedly require broadband to carry out their role from home. The homeworking agreement should set out if the employee is expected to cover the broadband cost (plus heating and lighting) or if the employer will contribute towards these costs and, if so, to what extent. The employer should also confirm any IT support and responsibility for repair or replacement if the employee’s equipment is used.
- Health & Safety
Employers are still responsible for an employee’s health & safety and welfare, during a period of home working and need to ensure that homeworkers have an awareness of health and safety and the Company’s health and safety policy. Employee should ensure they prepare a safe space at home where they can focus on work.
Employers should conduct risk assessments of all the work activities carried out by employees those working from home. The employee is responsible for addressing any issues identified in the assessment. The Health and Safety legislation also puts some responsibility on the home worker to ensure that they and members of the household are not endangered by work activities undertaken at home.
- Data protection.
Employers should make sure data protection obligations are maintained and employees using their own computer should still process information in compliance with data protection principles. Employers should remind employees about home security, confidential information, passwords, shredding etc.
If you are experiencing any challenges or have any queries regarding home working please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team 03332005153 or contact us using the online form here.
Top tips for healthy remote working
- Safety first. Encourage managers to conduct risk assessments with their teams. This way they can ensure that the work surroundings at home are suitable. All workers should be reminded of the Organisation’s health and safety policies. Importantly, if the Organisation supplies any equipment to employees, it must pass relevant safety tests.
- Step away from your desk. All workers should plan their working day and be clear about when it begins and ends, they should also ensure that they plan in breaks. When the working day has finished, a worker should switch off. It is recommended that workers adopt healthy habits including planning in proper meals and taking exercise and fresh air every day.
- Keep stress levels to a minimum. Managers should explain clearly the expectations of the Organisation in terms of communication throughout the working day, what form this will take and how regularly this will happen. Expectations should also be set in terms of workload and performance. This will help prevent micromanagement and gain trust whilst at the same time alleviating pressure and anxiety.
- Wherever possible have a daily virtual team catch up or, as regularly as is possible. Not only does this mean that the team is connected but it also means that line managers can check in on their team’s physical and mental well-being. This may lead to further 1-2-1’s to discuss any additional support the individual need to fulfil their roles from home.
- Promote relationships. Workers should make time for virtual ‘water-cooler’ chats, non-work related conversations that would happen if they were in the work place. Wherever possible the use of video calling should be encouraged to maintain face-to-face contact.
- Be kind. All too often non-face to face conversations and messages can easily be misinterpreted which can lead to a range of emotions including frustration and anxiety. It is important to stay mindful of this when communicating using any remote method. Challenging times call for greater sensitivity and kindness.
- Presenteeism can be defined as working while sick is the act or culture of employees continuing to work as a performative measure, despite having reduced productivity levels or negative consequences. Presenteeism should be discouraged. If a worker is unwell, they should take time off to recover. Line Managers should encourage workers to take time off if unwell and model the behaviour themselves.
- Organisations should offer support on well-being; they should remind their workforce of their existing health and well-being benefits (such as employee assistance programmes or occupational health) and how to access them when working remotely.
If you are experiencing any challenges or have any queries regarding remote working please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team 03332005153 or contact us using the online form here.