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What should be included in a homeworking policy?

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The mass shift to homeworking arrangements has been one of the many challenges employers faced this past year.  Many employers will have had to devise a homeworking policy without the benefit of much experience with homeworking in their workplace. Despite early challenges, homeworking has proven successful for many businesses and may continue to some degree after the pandemic. With this in mind, our Employment Law team here examines some broad areas employers should cover in their homeworking policy.

Application process to home working

Your homeworking policy should include a clear procedure for employees who want to make the switch to homeworking.  This procedure should include:

  • Who employees should submit their request to;
  • How far in advance they must make the request;
  • What information must be included in their application;
  • How long employees should expect to wait for a decision;
  • How employees can appeal a rejection.

You may also wish to include some instances where homeworking generally would not be appropriate and a request is likely to be refused, such as:

  • The role is not suited for homeworking;
  • The employee has an unexpired warning or improvement note;
  • The employee does not have a suitable space for homeworking.

However, every homeworking application must be considered in light of the circumstances of the individual employee. You may therefore wish to incorporate trial periods into your homeworking policy. A trial period can help both you and the employee decide if homeworking really is a suitable arrangement and can provide a defence to a discrimination claim if the trial period reveals it was not a good fit.

Management and supervision of employees working from home

How you manage and supervise employees will depend on the needs and resources of your organisation.  Possible supervision strategies include:

  • regular video/ telephone calls
  • regular trips to the office (where possible)
  • monitoring emails or internet use

Whichever methods you use, you should ensure that employees are kept fully informed with any procedures, particularly if you are monitoring their emails or internet use, and that you comply with Data Protection legislation.

Equipment for employees working from home

If you provide equipment to employees who work from home, you should state in your policy that:

  • The equipment remains the property of the employer;
  • You have the right to enter the home at reasonable time and with reasonable notice to install, maintain, and remove equipment (where possible in light of restrictions);
  • The equipment must only be used for the purposes for which you have provided it;
  • The employee must take good care of the equipment and alert you if it needs repair.

If employees use their own device to work from home, the policy should state whether you will cover the cost of increased wear and tear caused by using the equipment for work.

Data security and homeworking

Working from home introduces new challenges and risks to data security.  You may wish to conduct a privacy impact assessment to determine the unique risks homeworking poses to your organisation. This can then help you develop a policy that addresses those specific risks. 

Questions you may want to consider when devising your policy include:

  • Who is allowed to have access to equipment provided by the company;
  • How data is to be transferred to and from the office;
  • How files must be stored (e.g. in a locked filing cabinet);
  • How documents are to be destroyed.

Employees should be reminded of their obligations to protect confidential information, and that any IT and Data Protection Policies you may have apply equally to homeworkers.

Expenses and homeworking

Employees who work from home may incur more expenses than those that work in the office.  Your homeworking policy should be clear on which of these expenses you will cover.  For example, where working from home causes an employee’s home insurance premium to increase, their employer may agree to cover the increase.  Other areas where employees may wish to claim expenses include:

  • paper
  • postage
  • printing
  • travel to and from meetings
  • costs associated with increased use of electricity or broadband in their home.

Health and Safety and homeworking

When it comes to health and safety, employers owe the same duty towards homeworkers as they do to the rest of their employees.  As it is your responsibility to ensure the home is safe and suitable for the employee’s role, your homeworking policy should include the right to carry out a risk assessment and the right to refuse an application for homeworking if health and safety concerns are not addressed.  Once the home is declared suitable for homeworking it is the employee’s job to maintain the home’s suitability.

You may also want to caution employees on the risks that homeworking can pose to their mental health.  Remind employees of any resources that you offer or refer them to an employee welfare policy if you have one.  

Over the past year, homeworking has been a success in many business and employers and employees alike may wish it to continue, post-pandemic.  How organisations manage homeworking will vary depending on their structure and needs, but having a policy in place will allow the foundations for future requests.  If you have any questions regarding a home working policy, or other policies you are considering implementing, you can contact the Employment Law team by calling 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.

To receive regular Employment Law updates from the team regarding recent tribunal cases and legislation updates, you can subscribe to our weekly Employment Law Newsletter by completing our subscription form or emailing us at events@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.