Home working evolution
Top 5 working from home tips for employers.
With an increasing number of employees working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have compiled a list of top 5 tips for employers to help employees thrive at home.
- Health & Safety
By law, all employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the health & safety of all their employees, including those working from home. This duty extends to ensuring all employees’ physical and mental health. It also includes making reasonable adjustments for employees who have a disability.
During the pandemic, it is challenging (and in some cases not feasible) for employers to carry out usual health and safety risk assessments at an employee’s home, an employer should nevertheless check that:
- each employee feels able to do the work safely;
- each employee has the right equipment to work safely;
- managers are keeping in regular contact with all their employees, including making sure they do not feel isolated and they are healthy and safe;
- reasonable adjustments are made for an employee who has a disability.
There are also risks associated with using display screen equipment, which must be controlled. Employers can recommend employees reduce these risks by:
- taking regular rest breaks from their screen;
- avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position;
- getting up and moving, doing stretching exercises or taking a walk;
- avoiding eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking.
- Home Office Set-Up
Employers are also responsible for ensuring the employees have the equipment and technology they need to effectively work from home, including ensuring any confidential or personal data can be stored securely. We recommend that details of who bears the costs of such equipment should be clearly set out in the home working policy.
- Stay Connected
Staying connected is crucial. Prolonged isolation can weaken employees’ productivity and motivation and can have a negative impact on mental health. Managers should be encouraged to have regular meetings with individual employees, whether it is online or by telephone. Employees should also be encouraged to work together as a team or to have regular team chats on video meeting apps such as Zoom, Teams or Skype.
- Potential Contractual Changes
Employers must also be aware that the introduction of new working methods, such as working from home, can inadvertently lead to changes to terms of employment as this could amount to a change in the contractual place of work. Such changes are likely to take place by mutual consent and may not cause any issues, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in order to avoid any disputes, we strongly recommend the change in terms are agreed and documented in writing so that both parties are clear on the changes; for example if the home-working arrangement is a temporary or permanent change, when the employer can require the employee to attend the offices etc.
Employees working from home are likely to incur costs, such as additional energy outgoings, telephone or internet access charges and additional insurance costs. Some employers help employees cover their reasonable additional expenses incurred while working from home, but not all are happy or able to do so and there may be tax implications for both parties. It is important therefore to be very clear on which party is responsible for such costs, whether the employee can claim any outgoings as expenses and, if so, the monetary limits and procedural requirements for doing so. Similarly, if someone will be working from home more regularly or even permanently, the employer should document how this impacts on which party is responsible for travel expenses when the employee does then attend the office.
We strongly recommend that employers review or introduce comprehensive home working policies and risk assessment processes to ensure compliance with their duties in relation to health and safety and to reduce the likelihood of any disputes related to the terms and conditions of home working. If you would like to discuss any of these suggestions with a member of the team or would like help putting a policy in place, please do get in touch.