Homeworking has hit the headlines so that’s the topic we’re focusing on this month, but before we get into that the Employment Team have some news! Two of our number, Stephen Jenkins, Head of the Employment Team and Rhian Brace, Partner, have been appointed as full-time employment tribunal judges. Rhian, in fact, has already taken up her judicial post, whilst Stephen will be starting his new role in September. Whilst we are, of course, very sad to see them leave us, we are extremely proud of their achievement and wish them both the very best in the next stage of their legal careers.
From August, Kim Howell will head up the Employment Team, supported by our lawyers in the Cardiff, Derby and Nottingham offices with a new recruit or two joining the team in Cardiff in the near future. The Team will, of course, continue to provide a top-rated service to our clients.
It’s been widely reported recently that more than 1.54 million people now work from home according to the ONS Labour Force Survey. This is a 74% jump in the number of people working from home between 2009 and 2018 and is indicative of a general trend towards more flexible ways of working over the past 10 years.
There can be significant benefits for employers who allow their employees to work from home, such as; reduced overheads, increased productivity and better motivated staff. There are however practical considerations that an employer should address in order to ensure that homeworking arrangements do not result in a loss of control and oversight in relation to the homeworker.
Employers should be mindful of the fact that the statutory flexible working regime governs requests for flexible working arrangements, which will include requests for homeworking, and any such requests will therefore need to be dealt with in accordance with that framework.
Here are five key considerations for employers when it comes to agreeing to homeworking:
- Trial periods. If an employee requests a homeworking arrangement an employer can, if there are concerns regarding the arrangement, propose a contractual trial period and include a right to require the employee to revert to conventional working at the end of that period, if the employer does not consider the arrangement is working. The duration of the trial period and the measures used to assess success should be clearly set out. Offering a trial period can also assist in the defence of a discrimination claim if ultimately the arrangements do not work out. It is important however that a trial period is offered consistently where homeworking is requested to avoid any claim that employees are being treated differently.
- Contractual provisions. The key contractual provisions when it comes to homeworking will be place and hours of work. The contract should stipulate where the principal place of work is, the employer’s premises or the employee’s home. The contract should also state when the homeworker is required to attend the office e.g. for team or client meetings, appraisals or disciplinary meetings etc. A determination should also be made about how flexible the homeworker’s hours of work will be; will there be a “core time” when they must be available, or will they be required to observe office hours? The working hours should be set out in the contract, together with a provision which states that the homeworker is responsible for regulating their own working time and breaks.
- Data protection. The GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 set out the framework for data protection law in the UK and require data controllers (i.e. employers) to adhere to the data protection principles. A key principle is data security. It may be necessary to put in place specific security measures when it comes to homeworking. For example, will the homeworker be permitted to use their own personal electronic devices in relation to work related matters? If so a Bring Your Own Device Policy should be put in place governing the level of security required in relation to any such device. If the homeworker will be using the employer’s equipment, security measures should be put in place to ensure other members of the household are not able to access any information.
- Health and Safety. An employer is responsible for an employee’s welfare, health and safety as far as is reasonably practicable under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; this includes homeworking. A risk assessment should therefore be undertaken of all the work activities carried out by a homeworker to identify hazards and assess the degree of risk.
- Expenses. Consideration should be given at the outset to which expenses the employee is entitled to claim from the employer. Can the homeworker claim travel expenses when attending the office? Will the employer cover the cost of broadband, telephone, insurance etc.? If it is the homeworker who will bear these costs then they may be able to claim a deduction against taxable income for certain household expenses and travel costs provided they are incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of the duties of their employment.
If you have any queries in relation to homeworking or in general please contact our Employment Team who will be happy to help.