The government has announced that the country has now gone into a second lockdown between 5th November 2020 until 2nd December 2020. The new national restrictions state that we should all be working from home whenever possible.
Our employment law expert Katie Bowen Nicholas discusses the key areas to take into consideration when making arrangements for employees to work from home.
Health and safety
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for all employees. This also applies to employees working from home. In order to provide a safe working environment, employers may need to consider carrying out health and safety risks assessments in the part of the home where each employee will be working.
The mental health of employees should also be taken into consideration when employers are assessing the overall health and safety of their employees. Employees should be encouraged to work the standard or core hours that they would usually work in the office and they should have a clear divide between their work and home life.
If an employee raises any concerns in relation to their mental health or working from home, the employer must look into resolving these concerns as early as possible before matters deteriorate.
The employer should discuss any concerns raised with the employee to identify ways to support them and keep in regular contact to see if their concerns have improved or worsened. Additionally, employees should be reminded of how they can contact their managers if they have any concerns.
Equipment and technology
It is the responsibility of employers to ensure they provide the appropriate equipment to enable employees to comfortably work from home.
This will include setting up and installing the required technology and equipment in the employee’s home and providing access to the organisation’s emails and network drives. The equipment that is needed will depend on the type of business; the work involved and the job role of each employee.
Employers will need to plan ahead and ensure they are able to supply additional equipment and resources when necessary. For example, some employees may require additional resources if the duration of working from home is extended due to the pandemic. In these circumstances, employers should arrange for these items to be delivered to the employee’s home to reduce the need for on-site visits and contact with other employees.
Maintaining communication between employers and employees
An employer should come to an agreement with their employees to discuss their preferred method of communication and how often they should communicate with one another. These arrangements should be regularly reviewed by the employer to assess whether they are effective for all employees.
Additionally, regular communication should take place between individual employees and managers and employees who work together either in teams or departments.
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an increase in the use of video or conference calling software being used as an alternative to face-to-face communication and this has proven to be effective.
Confidentiality and security
As employees will be working from home they may need to take important documents and information with them in order to work from home. Therefore, employers must advise their employees to follow company policies on storing information securely and keeping data confidential.
Employees should be given facilities to ensure they are able to follow the same rules for storing and handling information in their homes as they would in the workplace. For example, providing a shredder and lockable cabinets for confidential documents.
Expenses and allowances
Employees may encounter additional costs when working from home such as paying for equipment, services or stationery supplies. They may also experience an increase in their household expenses such as gas or electricity charges. Employers should discuss their policy on expenses with employees working from home to see how these expenses will be taken into account.