As the government guidance moves away from ‘work from home if you can’, to encouraging people back to their workplaces, many organisations are going to have to consider what is safe and what working patterns are optimal for both the organisation and individuals.
It is advisable for all UK organisations to promote flexible working to all employees and homeworking is one of the flexible working options available.
Homeworking is a type of flexible working which, depending on the agreement between employer and employee, can be also used in conjunction with other flexible working arrangements such as flexible hours and working part-time as a few examples.
It is advised that any guidance you share with employees on ‘homeworking’ is reviewed in conjunction with your ‘Flexible Working Policy’. This is also an optimal and appropriate time to review your HR policies to ensure that they are accurate and fit for purpose, as many employees may wish to continue home working in the long term.
If you need any HR advice on flexible working or support with developing HR policies (including flexible working) then we, as experienced HR Consultants would be happy to help advise and provide you with the HR resources you need.
The first consideration needs to be whether a job is suitable for homeworking. Many roles might be, but unfortunately, not all are.
While homeworking can be an attractive option and have huge benefits for both the organisation and the employee when trying to balance work and home demands, both employees and the organisation should be fully aware it does not suit everyone.
Homeworkers will need a safe and reasonable space, security and privacy in which to work, and an internet connection able to support work systems.
Please remember that all employees have the statutory right to request flexible working for any reason, provided they have 26 continuous weeks of service with their employer and haven’t made another flexible working request in the past 12 months. For further advice on managing such requests please see our previous blog better bend than break flexible working.
Safe Working Environment
A manager should be required to ensure that there are adequate contact and communication with home workers and that the required risks assessments/checklists associated with home working are completed.
All employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, which includes when working from home.
Any employee who experiences issues while working from home should speak with their line manager. All homeworkers are also responsible for identifying any risks and where these can not be removed these should be escalated to the line manager.
These points should be made clear to all employees.
It is the employer’s responsibility to carry out a risk assessment, to check whether the proposed homework environment is suitable for the tasks the homeworker will be asked to do. It is important that this is reviewed with employees who are moving from temporary homeworking arrangements to requesting more permanent agreements.
It is advisable for organisations to have a tool such as a ‘Home Working Checklist’ to identify any possible hazards or challenges that may arise as a result of homeworking and to identify any other factors that need to be considered for home working to be successful in the long term. Avia HR is able to provide such resources if needed.
Any checklist can then be used in discussions between the employee and line manager to confirm working arrangements and to help completion of a formal assessment.
HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have various tools and templates, which have been developed, some as a result of COVID 19 that may be helpful if you don’t have such resources in place already. Some of the helpful links are as follows:
- Working safely with display screen equipment
- 90 second video issued by Health & Safety Executive on temporary home workstation set-up
- HSE guidance
- HSE workplace risk assessment template
Display Screen Equipment
It is also advisable that all staff that work from home complete a workstation checklist. HSE provide a template if needed, click here to view the PDF. Reasonable steps should be taken to remove any risks.
Whilst it may seem easier for an employee to simply open the laptop and start working without making any adjustments, this can lead to poor posture, which can cause pain and discomfort over time. It is well worth ensuring that employees take a couple of minutes to set up the workstation correctly each time.
Tips for working on a PC or laptop remotely can be provided if this would be helpful.
You will need to consider whether you wish to make any additional payments for staff that are working from home. However, there is no obligation for organisations to pay any additional payments to staff due to homeworking.
During any period that staff are required to work from home because of office closures, employees may be able to claim tax relief from HM Revenue and Customs where employees have incurred additional costs arising from homeworking, up to the value of £6 per week. Full information is available from the HMRC website.
Access to an Employee’s Home
It is important to consider whether the organisation may require access to an employee’s home, with prior notice, in the following circumstances:
- initial set-up
- maintenance of equipment
- health and safety assessment
- electrical equipment testing
If so, it is important to be transparent with staff about this prospect.
Have you considered, and are you clear about any information governance implication of homeworking?
Employees working from home will be responsible for complying with data protection law (GDPR) and for keeping all documents and information associated with the organisation secure at all times.
Have you updated your management and staff training on information governance to take account of homeworking?
Whilst not the sexist of topics, it is important that staff receive training and understand their responsibilities. If needed Avia HR have devised GDPR training for managers and can promise that we have managed to make even this dry subject fun!
Employees who are Carers
While homeworking can support employees work-life balance, homeworking is not a substitute for suitable care arrangements. It is advisable to be clear that dependents need to be looked after by someone other than the employee when they are working and, if necessary, care arrangements should be in place to cover the time when the employee is working.
Breaks and Wellbeing
It is important to be clear that employees take regular breaks and maintain positive wellbeing when working e.g.
- a micro-break (2-3 minutes) every 20 minutes
- a break (5 minutes) every hour e.g. make a hot drink or walk around the room.
- simple workstation exercises
- keeping hydrated and drinking water
- enjoying healthy snacks and avoiding sugary or fatty foods
- staying connected and maintaining social connections with the team, family, friends and community
Homeworkers may need to take more breaks or alternate the type of work undertaken relative to how work would normally be done.
Any employee experiencing pain or discomfort from the work environment or who has an underlying health condition which is affecting their work should speak with their line manager.
As with all workers, homeworkers must also be clear that they must comply with the organisation’s sickness absence policy and ensure they report their sickness to their line manager when they are sick and unable to work.
* We provide remote HR advice and support to companies across the UK. In response to increased levels of home/remote working, we can offer ALL of our services remotely.
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