Working from home is currently a reality for a lot of us. Whereas some organisations do occasionally allow employees to work from home, the current situation of whole workforces working from home at the same time is unprecedented.
Employers have had no choice but to close down their places of work and tell their staff work from home at short notice. Below are some practical issues to consider in relation to working from home:
- Confidentiality. Employees have an implied (and if this is dealt with in their contracts of employment, an express) obligation not to disclose an employer’s confidential information. So as to help enforce this, an employer may request that for example a lap top used by an employee to work from home is password protected.
- Equipment and expenses. Unless a contract of employment says otherwise, there is no obligation on an employer to pay for the equipment needed or expenses incurred by an employee to work from home. However, given the unprecedented nature of the current climate, employers are encouraged to take a flexible approach. Especially as the cost of paying for some equipment for example will most likely be outweighed by the revenue generated for the business by the employee if he or she is able to work from home.
- Health and safety. So far as is reasonably practicable, and employer has an obligation to ensure that an employee has a safe working environment. For people who regularly work from home, and employer will usually undertake a risk assessment of the home environment for working purposes. Given the speed of the shutdown, such an assessment will not have been possible in most cases. However, an employer should still liaise with employees to check that they are comfortable that they consider that they can safely work from home.
- Discrimination. Even though the entire workforce is working from home, an employer should still ensure that its employees are treated equally and that employees in a particular group do not feel that they are being singled out. This would include for example making reasonable adjustments for someone who is disabled.
- Contact. Working from home for a long period of time will be a new experience for most people. Employers should keep in regular contact with their employees and let them know that they are on hand if the employee has any problems. If this is practical, team meetings can be held by video conferencing so that staff feel like they are in regular contact.
- Looking after others. An employee may have childcare responsibilities or need to look after an elderly relative who is also at home as a result of the current situation. If that is the case, then employers are encouraged to take a flexible approach to the situation such as agreeing that an employee can make up time during non-business hours.
- Pay. If staff are continuing to do their regular jobs, but are simply doing so from home, then unless a contract of employment states something different, employees should continue to get their usual pay.
If you have any employment law queries, please do not hesitate to contact David Nathan at [email protected] or on 020 7822 2247.
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