There can’t be a HR team in the land that hasn’t had a recent discussion about hybrid working and remote working.
Its been on our clients agenda’s, so here’s the top 5 things we’ve been asked in the last week, and the answers to them:
1. Do we have to allow employees to work remotely or in a hybrid way?
Legally, employees only have the right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of service with the employer. The employer has to give the request consideration but can refuse it for any of the following reasons:
- extra costs that will damage the business
- the work cannot be reorganised among other staff
- people cannot be recruited to do the work
- flexible working will affect quality and performance
- the business will not be able to meet customer demand
- there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
- the business is planning changes to the workforce
However, many of these previous arguments have been overcome during the past year and there is consultation involving the government currently taking place to make flexible working the default. There’s also an increasing demand for flexibility in order to attract and retain employees.
2. Should we change our employees’ contracts to reflect them now working remotely or in a hybrid way?
Even if you intend for hybrid or remote working to become the norm in your workplace, we would suggest that you don’t make contractual changes yet.
Further changes may be needed as the ‘post Covid world’ evolves, so you’d be better taking the approach that whilst you are communicating an intention for the long term, this is still an experiment which will no doubt lead to tweaking along the way before you reach a conclusion to change terms and conditions permanently.
3. What equipment do we have to provide for hybrid or remote working?
Health & safety legislation applies whether an employee is working in your office or in their own home, so a risk assessment and Display Screen Equipment assessment of their working environment should be done.
If either of these highlights a need for particular equipment then the employer has to provide it. However, if the cost is prohibitive, to provide, for example, an adjustable chair both in the office and at home, then the employer could justify not allowing someone to work from home if they can’t do so safely.
4. Do we have to pay expenses for employees to work from home?
Unless you have contractually agreed to do so, there is no obligation for employers to cover the cost of broadband, phone or heating etc. However, HMRC do allow employees whose employer requires them to work from home to claim a tax allowance, even if the employee only works from home for one day in the tax year or is working part time. This allowance isn’t available to employees who choose to work from home.
5. What if our employees work with confidential information?
Data protection regulations apply in the same way if people are working from home as they do in an office.
Any data which is covered by the regulations needs to be handled, stored and used in accordance with the regulations and you should ensure that employees are able to adhere to this wherever they work. If your employees are dealing with commercial information which you regard as confidential, then it is up to you what safeguards you put in place to reasonably protect that information.
So, that’s our top five. If you have any further questions don’t hesitate to contact our team. If you’re looking for help implementing new Hybrid Working and Remote Working procedures – we’ve also put together some template policies which you can download here.