Covid-19 imposed remote working on employers and employees with little time to prepare. However, a number of organisations are now actively embracing remote working and the benefits it can bring – with large companies such as Fujitsu, Twitter, Google and Facebook all extending their work from home options. Siemens, is one of the latest companies to announce that employees may work from wherever they want for two or three days a week, stating that ‘COVID-19 gives us a chance to reshape our world and reimagine work’.
It has proved to employers that employees are able to work remotely for extended periods of time and many recognise that employees are happier when they are offered more flexibility and a better work life balance. Many businesses have found that employees are just as productive working from home as they are in the office and for employees, they are likely to be saving both time and money with less time commuting.
It looks like social distancing guidelines in the office are here to stay and as many businesses struggle to return all of their employees to the office at once, remote working seems to become the new normal for a lot of businesses – large and small.
So what are the key action points for employers?
Prepare for an increase in flexible working requests
- Ensure flexible working policies are up-to-date
- Document any revised working arrangements you agree
Any employee with at least 26-weeks continuous service has the right to make a written request for flexible working. Employers, by law, have to consider and respond to a flexible working request. There are certain circumstances in which such a request could be refused, but these are limited to specific, albeit wide-ranging business reasons.
Review health and safety policies and procedures
- Establish a system for carrying out risk assessments to ensure employees can work safely from home
- Ensure employees know how to raise any concerns they have about the suitability of their home-working environment
- Ensure employees have the right equipment to work safely
- Consider appropriate support for mental health and managing the work-life balance
Employers have a legal duty to ensure the health and safety of all employees, including those working from home. Although there are plenty of benefits that working remotely brings, there’s also some downsides with employees missing out on day-to-day human interaction with colleagues and struggling with mental health.
Make any reasonable adjustments for disabled employees
Where working arrangements place a disabled employee at a substantial disadvantage, employers must make any reasonable adjustments that would avoid that disadvantage.
Review the frequency and methods of communication
Managers and colleagues should keep in regular contact to maintain effective communication of business developments, manage workloads, provide appropriate support and supervision to avoid issues of isolation, mental health concerns and grievances. Many businesses have adopted the use of Teams, Zoom and Skype to keep in touch and organised virtual team building events such as quiz’s and escape rooms.
Review policies on confidentiality and data protection to ensure these cover working from home
Employers need to ensure they have the correct systems, policies and procedures in place to protect personal and confidential data to minimise the risk from cyber-attacks.
Check insurance policies to ensure these cover employees working from home and claims by third parties
Employees should also be advised to check there are no issues regarding them working from home, with their home insurer, mortgage provider or landlord.
A clear home-working policy summarising key expectations and obligations (as well as practicalities such as running costs and expenses, taxation, mortgage, lease and insurance issues) will help to protect your business.
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