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Home workers, lone workers and remote workers – what employers need to know

As a new study reveals 54 per cent of commuters use their train wi-fi to carry out work tasks from calls to emails, the debate around employment issues such as working hours and flexible working continue to make headlines.According to recent research, remote working is considered one of most important perks by jobseekers, beating benefits such as enhanced parental leave, training and development and travel allowances.The UK currently trails behind other countries in offering remote and flexible working, however offering these options can bring significant benefits to employers including:• A reduction or removal in commuting time – meaning employees can begin work right away without being affected by traffic or travel issues on their commute which can eat into the working day.
• 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 cvr@hibberts.com.

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.

Camille Renaudon

Partner & Head of Employment

Camille Renaudon became a Partner of Hibberts LLP Solicitors in 2014.Receiving her Law Degree with honours at Sheffield University Camille graduated in 2002. Opting to work in the world of Youth Justice for the next 3 years to gain ‘life experience’, she returned to university in 2005 to complete a Legal Practice Course full time.Following this Camille completed her training course with Hibberts in 2008, qualifying as Solicitor.Heading up our Employment Law Department and primarily based at our Crewe office, she provides an employment law service for all of our offices across South Cheshire and North Shropshire.Camille represents both employers and employees across the UK and abroad. She provides a flexible service seeing clients’ at their convenience, either in the office or in their homes.