With so many employees now working from home, in this article, we highlight some of the issues for employers to consider.
Health and Safety:
Employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees.
When employees are working from home, employers should consider undertaking the following:
- Risk Assessments – employers have a duty to conduct risk assessments. Risk assessments help to identify any risks in the workplace and what measures need to be put in place to eliminate or manage these risks. As it is currently not possible for employers to visit each of their employees’ homes to carry out risk assessments, employers should ask their employees to undertake a self-assessment, using the HSE checklist.
- Equipment –Providing employees with the correct equipment will help to reduce any health and safety risks that can arise when working from home. If feasible employees could be allowed to take office equipment home. However, employers must have a system in place to monitor and manage the return of office equipment at the end of the working from home period.
- Reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities – employers have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. Examples of adjustments employers can make include: changing the employee’s working hours, providing specialist equipment e.g. ergonomic chairs and/ or installing specialist software on computers.
- Protecting the mental health and wellbeing of employees – employers have a duty to protect their employees’ health. Employers should encourage their employees to establish a routine and take frequent breaks when working from home. Employers can also provide employees with flexible working hours to accommodate for childcare.
Contact should be maintained with employees working from home. This could be done through regular one-to-one telephone meetings or video conference calls. The aim is to ensure that employees feel supported and connected. A “virtual lunch” could be a good way to catch up and don’t forget to just pick up the phone and call a colleague to see how they are.
You could also remind employees of details relating to any Employee Assistance Programmes if you have them or now could be a good time to introduce one.
Don’t forget Data Protection and Security!
There is an increased risk of data protection and security breaches when employees work from home. The ICO have published security checklists for employers regarding working from home:
Some considerations for this are:
- Corporate cloud storage – these allow employees to access data remotely from any device. This will prevent employees from using their own personal storage systems, which are more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
- Remote applications – this will allow employees to have access to corporate applications while working from home.This will prevent employees from using their own personal applications to process data.
- Secure video conferencing systems.
Employers should have clear policies and guidance on accessing, handling and disposing of personal data for employees working from home. The guidance provided can address how employees can dispose of any confidential documents they have and how employees can securely store these documents at home. Employers should also provide guidance on how to identify phishing attacks on email accounts.
For further information, please see also the National Cyber Security Centre.
Don’t forget to have a working from home policy and to make sure you are clear on what expenses can be claimed.
*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation. The information is accurate at date of publication, 30th of June 2020 .