Recent changes to work patterns due to Covid 19 have seen more and more people work from home. Employers will have at the time of the first lockdowns agreed some variations to the contracts to allow people to work from home.
If those variations included changes to hours of work or place of work and have now became permanent, then the employment agreement itself should be revisited and updated.
Health and Safety
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and related regulations, employers must provide employees with the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes risks to both physical and mental health.
If employees often work from home, employers should consider whether this would be a ‘home-workplace’ that needs a health and safety risk assessment. This could include things like ergonomics of the workstation setup, fire safety equipment, and first aid kits. Added electrical cabling etc. It needs to be remembered that whilst this is the employees home it is also now a workplace
If an employee lives alone and works at home regularly, there may also be risk of social isolation. Employers should make sure that employees have plenty of opportunities to stay connected with colleagues. Possibly working alternating days working at home and in the office. Maintain contact via phone, email or video conferencing.
Equipment and expenses
Employers should consider what they need to purchase or if they need to provide allowances to cover additional office equipment and related costs to enable employees to work effectively from home. These include computers, screens, video and audio devices, and electricity or telecommunication costs.
There is no specific legal entitlement to allowances. The payment of and level of allowances, over and above salary or wages, can be agreed to by the employer and employee.
Monitoring and Privacy
Employers should think carefully about monitoring employees’ productivity whilst working remotely. Monitoring staff can affect their morale and productivity because they may feel that they are not trusted by their employer. Employers need to be mindful of the different privacy concerns that arise when monitoring or filming occurs in the employee’s home environment.
Information and data security
The employer’s information and data may not be as safe at an employee’s home as at the business’ premises. This is because employers can control the security of their information and data better at their premises. Whereas, at home, employees may be using different devices and work from a different network and system which are outside the control of the employer.