With the current Government COVID-19 messaging being ‘work from home where possible’, an increasing number of individuals are working remotely. Employees working from home are entitled to the same employment law rights as they would have if being present in the workplace. As the restrictions and dangers of the pandemic remain, and unlikely to reduce soon, we have put together a reminder of the main rights for employees and important considerations for employers during this time.
- Employment rights when home working
Employees and employers should remain aware of the following legal rights applicable to working from home:
- Health and Safety: Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of all employees. This duty extends to workers working from home and where possible, risk assessments should be carried out as well as ensuring there is open communication to allow employees to report concerns.
- Reasonable adjustments: Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees who suffer from a disability. This duty extends to wherever your employees are based. Examples of adjustments that could be required for disabled employees working from home include, implementing flexible working or providing specialised equipment such as a desk chair to help with back issues.
- Equipment: If employers provide their employees with technology such as laptops or phones to work on, they remain responsible for this equipment and should ensure it is suitable and safe.
- Flexible working: Employees have the right to request to work flexibly such as to reduce their hours or amend their working days. There is a duty on employers to deal with any requests for flexible working reasonably and this remains the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the circumstances, we are encouraging employers to be sensitive and flexible towards employees’ personal situations such as a need to work different hours due to needing to look after children.
- Mental health: As outlined above, employers have a responsibility for employee’s health and safety and this can extend to protecting their mental health. It is also important to note that mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety could amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010, so employers should offer their full support and have procedures in place for identifying employees who may be suffering.
- Pay: Employees working from home are still entitled to the same pay and terms and conditions of their contract.
- Practical tips for employers
- Employers should ensure they have a home working policy in place outlining the expectations on employees working remotely clearly.
- In absence of daily face-to-face contract, employers should prioritise regular communication with employees so any issues can be raised and dealt with.
- Managers should receive training on how to supervise and manage employees working remotely, especially on spotting signs of employees who may be under pressure or unhappy with their working arrangements.
- Employers should remain alive to any potential data protection and confidentiality issues that may arise with employees working remotely and clearly convey the requirements to them.