Arrangements for working from home, which were expected to be temporary when coronavirus forced the UK to lockdown in March last year, look like becoming a more permanent feature for many, as a significant number of businesses adopt a hybrid working model.
A large number of employees and employers appear to have reaped benefits from what was an enforced measure and, while some may be looking forward to reverting to the ‘traditional model’, many are now happy to continue with at least some remote working away from the office – be that from home or elsewhere.
If you’re exploring regular remote working as part of a hybrid working strategy, now is the time to put in place a suitable policy so that everyone understands what is expected of them and others. Below we set out our checklist of things to include in your new policy.
It may be reassuring for staff if the policy starts with a statement from the employer regarding its endorsement of hybrid working and that no employees will be discriminated against in terms of their employment and promotion prospects by not working full-time in the office – of course you need to think this through and make sure your behind-the-scenes HR operation is set up accordingly.
Set out which roles will be eligible for hybrid working and specify any that will not. Employers may wish to retain the discretion to decide on a case by cases basis whether a role is suitable for this arrangement or, given the experience of the last 18 months, may be confident in stating the policy applies to everyone.
Agree a process for requests
Explain any internal process for agreeing new working entitlements. While a formal, statutory procedure for some employees to request flexible working has existed for a number of years, businesses will probably want to put in place their own wider and less prescriptive process.
Third party considerations
Employees who wish to work remotely from home, for whatever proportion of time, should be required to check and confirm that there will be no issues with this with their mortgage provider, landlord or home insurer. The employer should also check that their insurance will continue to cover those working away from the office on a regular basis.
Make it clear that if a request to change working arrangements is approved (either immediately or after an agreed trial period) this will entail a permanent change to the employee’s contract.
Availability and responsiveness
Be clear about when employees will be expected to be available – a blanket 9-5 work requirement or, will employees be able to set their own schedule, perhaps within core hours? Do you need to include specific rules on response times?
Conversely, will the employer guarantee a minimum amount of contact with remote working staff from managers, will individuals be expected to make contact with the employer at certain times? Avoiding stress and anxiety caused by isolation is likely to be a requirement of the employer’s health and safety duty.
- Does remote working mean only working at an individual’s home address or can they work elsewhere, for example at a second home either in the UK or abroad?
- If staff are also allowed to work in public places such as cafes or shared spaces, consider any extra security/confidentiality measures needed (see below).
- International remote working is a different and legally complex topic – be sure you understand the legal and tax risks before agreeing to it.
How will performance and productivity be managed? Will the employer be monitoring employee activity via their IT – if so, this needs to be disclosed. What evaluation methods and metrics will the employer use if managers can’t physically supervise – by time, client interactions, profits generated, cases resolved?
Equipment and expenses
- What equipment will the employer provide and what will individuals be expected to provide? Will staff have to have an internet service that meets a certain speed requirement? Will the employee be able to claim expenses for paper, ink cartridges and anything else they reasonably need to do their job?
- What happens if the employee is having technical difficulties, will the employer provide a tech support service?
- Will the employer pay employees working at home any allowance in respect of broadband, electricity, heating costs?
Access by the employer
Employers should make it clear when they may need to access the employee’s home, for example for initial risk assessment on the employee’s home workspace, to set-up equipment, for maintenance, to retrieve property at the end of employment.
Data protection and confidentiality
- Data protection and confidentiality issues need to be comprehensively addressed in any policy as the employer carries significant legal risk of breach by remote working staff if they are not adequately trained and informed in this area.
- Be very clear about the information security measures you expect staff to follow when working from home, or another location. For example, that a personal email must never be used for work matters and that waste is disposed of confidentiality. Some roles may only be able to be done from home where there is a lockable filing cabinet or dedicated space where phone calls can be made confidentially.
Address what happens when the employee goes on holiday – what are their obligations to secure work equipment and data?
Termination of employment
What will happen on the termination of employment? Set out the rules on collection of equipment and/ or ensure all proprietary information and personal data is returned.
Please get in touch if you have any questions or need help implementing any changes / updates to your working strategies or policies.