• Increased productivity and morale – workers can find it easier to focus on their work without busy office distractions.
• Fewer sick days – employees are more likely to continue working when they have a cold, for example, if they can work from home. This also prevents infection of fellow workers.
• Improved employee retention – workers will be more content with their role, particularly parents and carers, if they can have greater flexibility.
• Save money – if more employees are home-based then less office space, equipment and utility bill costs are incurred. Relocation costs may also be avoided in some cases.
• Better capability for the business to withstand external disruptions such as transport problems and adverse and extreme weather.
Are home workers different to office workers?
Not really. If you have employees working from home you still need to make sure you comply with health and safety legislation. A home worker usually describes someone who splits their working hours between being in the office and doing their work at home. Before an employee can start working from home as an employer you are responsible for carrying out a risk assessment of their workspace to ensure it is suitable for home working. Employers also should provide the worker with the equipment they need to do their job.
Aren’t lone workers just home workers?
A lone worker is someone who works by themselves without someone directly supervising them. They may not necessarily be working from home – for example, someone working in a petrol station – they’re just in a different location to their team and manager. To protect your lone workers, you should make sure you comply with the following points:
• Conduct a lone working assessment
• Implement a lone working policy
• Keep the lone worker’s training up to date
• Have a personal safety procedure and monitoring system in place
What is a remote worker?
A remote worker is more commonly described as someone who works away from the company’s office space, usually because they don’t live in a geographically suitable place to commute to work or because their attendance at ‘an office’ is not necessitated. For every remote worker a suitable work space should be set up. The employee is responsible for ensuring:
• Appropriate lighting
• No trailing wires
• Appropriate storage, that isn’t on high shelves or the floor for example
Any health and safety hazards should be considered by both the employer and employee. Remote workers must make sure they use equipment appropriately and take care to ensure their own health and safety. The employer is usually expected to provide equipment for the worker which may include items such as a desk, chair, laptop and mobile phone and as referred to above, must conduct a suitable risk assessment of the activities to be carried out by the remote worker at the outset.
What are the risks and practical considerations for an employer of home and remote workers?
• Ensure that your contractual documents are well drafted and reflect the requirements of your business. For example, you would normally want the ability to require a homeworker to attend the office from time to time
• Confidentiality – It is crucial that there is an express contractual clause dealing with confidential information and you will need to consider the practical aspects of staff working from home. For example, access to their workspace, passwords & encryption, disposal of confidential paperwork and how to get information, documents & files to and from the homeworker.
• Equipment & data protection – Employers must ensure they have suitable IT & electronic communications systems policy and a data protection policy in place. You must also have considered and documented the risk of data security breaches, normally done by way of a data impact privacy assessment.
Now that each employee category has been clearly explained and we have looked at the potential benefits and risks of homeworking it’s important to consider if your current company policies and contracts are up to date and reflect your workforce. Often employee working arrangements and roles can change during the lifespan of their employment and it’s essential that your paperwork is updated to reflect these changes and to make sure your business is protected.
If you would like further advice about homeworking, flexible working requests or a review of your company contracts, policies and working practices contact our employment specialist Camille Renaudon for an appointment on 01270 215117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog is not meant to be taken as official legal advice and we recommend you always seek professional legal advice if you have questions about your specific situation.