Did you know that as an employer, you still have to make sure that your staff working from home are ok?
If they are going to carry on with some part-time or full time home working, then you should have a checklist…
You will need to ensure that:
- The work is suitable to be done from home.
- Any equipment that is needed to do the work safely, is in place, (chair, desk computer etc).
- There is a risk assessment to make sure the work environment is healthy and safe.
- There is adequate lighting without glare.
Are the duties suitable for working from home?
Has any special equipment been identified and provided that will be necessary to allow the employee safely to complete their duties from home, for example, suitable desk, chair, computer, first aid kit?
Adequate training must be provided to be able to work from home, and access to senior staff and information where required.
Have the hours of work been stated and agreed upon along with the communication procedures between management and colleagues?
Has it been agreed whether the arrangements are temporary or permanent?
Is there a review scheduled to check out how it is working for the employer and employee?
Is there a working from home policy? Has the employee seen it?
It may seem strange that someone’s home can effectively be their place of employment for which you, as an employer, are responsible, but that is the law.
Can you force your employees to work at the office rather than at home?
Before coronavirus, the answer to this question would be yes. Most employment contracts require a person to be available for work at a specific location and during a certain time. If an employee refuses to do as instructed then they are breaching their employment contract, and face the possibility of being dismissed. However, these are not normal times. Workspaces carry risk and the right safeguards and policies need to be in place before re-opening. Employees are entitled to ask questions about these safeguards and policies.
Employers’ duty of care towards employees
Employers have a duty of care towards employees to look after both their physical and mental health. They also have to abide by a variety of health and safety standards, such as ensuring that sanitation measures are in place, and that there are enough first aiders and fire wardens on site.
Employers have a duty to comply with equalities legislation and not discriminate against those who have protected characteristics, such as a disability.
All of this means that employers need to consider how to alleviate any concerns raised by employees about their health and safety and/or their ability to do their job.
Employers should have a Covid-19 risk assessment of the office and details of how the risks will be mitigated.
Under the government’s COVID-19 return to the office guidance, all businesses have a duty to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment. Staff groups should be consulted about the risk assessment and, if the business has more than 50 employees, it should be published on the organisation’s website. Employers have a duty to explain to their staff the measures they are implementing, to bring risks down to an acceptable level.
Flexible working requests
If employees want to work in a way that is different from the one stated in their contract, then they have to obtain permission. All employees have the legal right to request a new working arrangement and the formal process is known as a flexible working request.
Employers are required to approach such requests in a “reasonable manner”.
When making such a request, employees must give their reasons for doing so and any evidence that shows how their new way of working will not impact on their performance. This will help the employer to consider the request, and if they do not agree with what the employer is asking for, may be suggest a compromise.
Many employees have been managing their work alongside childcare responsibilities or care for other dependants or have been working their usual working day over longer hours during lockdown. To the extent that employees feel that this arrangement has worked for them, the employee may have already gone some way in proving to their employer that they can carry out their role successfully at home going forward (permanently or for at least part of the working week).
There are eight statutory grounds for rejecting a flexible working request. Employers may find it difficult to demonstrate that there will be a detrimental impact on quality or performance of work in the long term – especially if there was no such impact throughout the period of lockdown.
Employers should record that they have considered each and every request made, including the reason(s) for it and how it might be dealt with. This way employees understand why their request may have been rejected and are less inclined to appeal and/or worse, file a claim.
Employees can carry over statutory annual leave into the next 2 leave years where they have been unable to take it in 2020 due to the COVID crisis.
Employers will want to avoid being overwhelmed with holiday requests when work has returned to normal. Government Guidance indicates that holiday can be taken during the furlough period (provided that the employer tops up pay to the normal weekly rate).
Some employers may consider requiring employees to take some contractual annual leave, bearing in mind that an employer must give adequate notice which is usually double the period of leave being taken (for example 5 days holiday will require the employer to give 10 working days’ notice).
For more information please email [email protected] or telephone 0118 958 9711.
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Justin deals with all aspects of Dispute Resolution for both businesses and individuals, including including Contentious Probate, Employment Law ( for both businesses and individuals) and Commercial Litigation. This means that he is familiar with the many different courts and tribunal as well as the many different methods for resolving disputes, including alternative dispute resolution such as adjudication and mediation.