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Employers’ obligations when employees work from home

7 October 2020 5 minutes

Just as businesses were preparing to bring their workforce back to the office, the government did a U-turn on previous guidance and told businesses that if employees can work from home, they should.

With working from home looking like it’ll be on the cards for the foreseeable future, and with the rise in remote working, we’ve been inundated with questions from employers about their obligations to employees who are working from home, following our last blog about preparing for longer term remote working.

hybrid working - man working from home

Do I have to provide my employee with equipment like a desk and chair?

No. There is no legal obligation on an employer to provide the equipment necessary for home-working (e.g. desk, chair, printer, etc). For practical reasons though it might be sensible to. For example, if someone working from home doesn’t have a proper desk and chair set up they may be at increased risk of suffering from muscular issues which could lead to absence or, at worst, even personal injury.

If I supply IT equipment to an employee, what are my obligations?

The use of electrical equipment at work is covered by a variety of EU and UK legislation including the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (SI 1989/635). Briefly, an employer is responsible for the equipment it supplies.

However, the homeworker’s domestic supply, including electrical sockets, remains their responsibility and they should be reminded of this. It will be the employee’s responsibility (once the employer has satisfied itself the equipment provided in the first place is safe) to highlight any issues with the equipment, but employers should provide guidance/a checklist to employees on what to look for (e.g. broken wires, overheating equipment).

Do I need to supply a home worker with a first aid kit?

An employer must supply appropriate first aid provisions and supplies to all employees, including homeworkers (Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (SI 1981/917)). The precise requirements depend on the nature of the work and the risks involved. Most people working from home will be of low risk and should not create any particular problems: a simple first aid kit should suffice.

Do I have to reimburse a home-worker for using their electricity and broadband?

No, but you can choose to. Employers can, if they wish, pay a home worker up to £6 per week to cover additional household expenses without that sum having any tax implications. Any amounts above £6 per week might be taxable as an employment related benefit.

Can I ask questions about childcare commitments if an employee asks to work from home?

Yes, but carefully. Ensure the same questions are asked to both men and women, and are limited. Only ask what you need to in order to ensure there is adequate childcare in place, so the employee is able to concentrate on their duties during their working hours.