Many businesses have some form of hybrid working arrangements in place. That's because employers see the benefits of flexible working.
But even if your staff work away from the office, you still have a legal duty to protect them. That's why you need a homeworking policy. Through them, you'll be able to protect your staff as they work from their homes.
However, there are legal rules when it comes to homeworking. If you neglect them, you could end up hurting employees, paying compensation, and facing business losses.
In this guide, we'll look at what a homeworking policy is, what the law covers, and how to protect employees working from home.
What is a homeworking policy?
A homeworking policy is a set of guidelines explaining how employees are managed whilst working from home.
Homeworking is a form of hybrid working; meaning, staff will carry on their job outside their usual workplace. It could be for a couple days in the week. Other times, it's for a set period.
But it doesn't matter if staff work away for one day or a whole week. A homeworking policy helps you protect them throughout their time away from your direct management.
The policy displays the flexible working arrangements used within your company. Employees have a clear understanding of what's expected from them whilst working from home.
What are the benefits of homeworking?
A homeworking policy brings about all kinds of employment benefits - for employees and employers. For example:
Lower overhead costs
One advantage an employer gains from hybrid working is lower overhead costs.
Employers will be able to save on all kinds of financial costs. Like office utility, rent, and maintenance bills. These savings can then be put back into the company to help improve productivity and output.
Wider pool of applicants
Businesses also gain access to a wider pool of job applicants.
More people today will specifically seek a job role that offers hybrid working. They value being able to work for a company that supports a balanced work life. And when staff are happy with their job, it reflects in their performance.
Managers can even stretch their recruitment means on a global scale. Remote employment means you're not limited to one type of applicant pool.
Happier and engaged employees
As mentioned, when employees are happy in their job, they're more likely to be productive and engaged overall.
Maybe they no longer need to go through tiring or expensive daily commutes. Homeworking allows them to do their job without additional pressure and stress. They may even work better due to their relaxed or comfortable home environment.
More environmentally friendly
Hybrid working can help your company to become more eco-friendly.
Less employees are commuting on a daily basis, which means less pollution being produced. This includes toxic pollutants from both personal cars, as well as public transport.
Pollution statistics are more identifiable within a larger organisation or business. However, every managed step adds up to the same, positive end-goal.
What are the downsides of homeworking?
Whilst the benefits may seem enticing, there are some downsides you need to consider when creating your homeworking policy. For example:
Hard to monitor performance
One of the biggest downsides to homeworking is that can be hard to monitor work performance.
That's because managers aren't able to assist their homeworking team in the same way as they would do in the office. It can be to keep on top of engagement, motivation, and even collaboration.
In the end, it may slow down team progression and output - losing you time, effort, and money in the long run.
Higher telecommunication costs
One factor that employers need to consider is their telecommunication costs.
These include things like work phones and video-calling equipment. If selected well, these can be relatively cheap to maintain.
But phone bills and internet charges can be hard to track, let alone reduce. And if you have multiple users within your business, the costs can quickly add up.
Affected employee wellbeing
Some homeworkers can even class as vulnerable employees. That's because they face certain risks you may or may not find in the workplace.
They might suffer from physical injuries if they don't work in safe conditions. For example, if their workstations aren’t set to DSE standards, they could suffer from muscle injuries and eye strain.
They could even suffer from poor mental health management whilst working from home. Employees could go through long hours without talking to colleagues or line-managers. Common health conditions raised by homeworkers are stress, anxiety, and depression.
Blurred work hours
It's very common for employees to blur their work hours whilst working from home.
They'll often end up working overtime - way beyond their contract hours. They'll also end up not taking their breaks. (This includes both lunch breaks, as well as regular breaks away from their workstations).
Usually, homeworkers will overwork because they lack direct management. They're eager to get tasks completed, so don't see the risks to overworking. But in the end, it can ruin their productivity, engagement, and work-life balance.
What is the law on working from home?
There isn't a specific working from home legislation under UK employment law. However, there are certain laws linked to the practice.
Certain employees only have a statutory right to request working from home – it’s not a legal entitlement. Employers are under no obligation to accept their ‘flexible working’ request - it's entirely up to your organisation.
The only time you must consider requests is when it's contractually agreed to. If an employee signs a homeworking clause within their employment contract, you must accept their request. But you need to apply it based on the wording of the employment contract.
Employees can only request flexible working if they have 26 weeks of continuous service. If the request is agreed to, it should be confirmed in writing and an updated contract should be issued. Make sure you add this to your homeworking policy, too.
Other legal obligations linked to homeworking come under:
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR)
Every employer has a legal duty to create a safe and healthy work environment. This duty extends to homeworking, along with other health-related policies.
Employees must be given proper equipment and workstations to do their job correctly. This includes things like sufficient equipment, computer software, and internet security.
The homeworking policy must highlight safety management standards. You also need to carry out a risk assessment on home equipment. Individual employees can complete this themselves after receiving proper training.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA)
Another legal duty that every manager must comply with is wellbeing management.
This means making sure homeworkers aren't facing additional issues or suffering alone. A great way to minimise them is through regular communication. Compared to their colleagues, homeworkers are often forgotten when it comes to welfare support.
Remember, employees working from home can class as vulnerable. So, make sure you safeguard them, especially those with health conditions. For example, if they're pregnant or have mental health issues.
How to manage a homeworking policy in the workplace
Employers are legally responsible for every staff-member, including homeworkers.
Remember, you still need to apply the same practices and procedures as you’d normally. This only thing that’s changed is their work location. That way, you'll be able to ensure their welfare and security - wherever they're working from.
Let's look at ways to manage a homeworking policy in the workplace:
Write out your homeworking policy rules
The first step employers should take is writing out your homeworking policy rules.
It's not enough just applying your usual work rules and training. You need to create rules that specifically apply to homeworking. Your homeworking policy rules should cover the following:
- Discuss what tasks are expected from staff.
- Outline their work hours and breaks.
- Explain who they should contact for any work-related issues.
- Discuss wellbeing responsibilities and management.
Document your rules in writing and make them available to every staff-member. You should also highlight what's expected from them; as well as what the consequences are for breaching the rules.
Carry out a working from home risk assessment
To keep on top of safeguarding homeworkers, you should carry out a working from home risk assessment.
These assessments allow you to eliminate any risks that they could face at home. For example, poor setup standards, missing work equipment, and even remote security risks.
A line-manager wouldn't necessarily conduct these risk assessments. Employees can do it themselves after receiving the proper training. But it's up to you to regularly review them within a suitable period.
Make sure your homeworking policy covers why risk assessments are needed. For example, an employee might require reasonable adjustments based on legal eligibility criteria, like disability or pregnancy.
Through your risk assessment, you'll be able to provide equipment that suits their operational needs. Remember, this legal duty stands wherever the employee is working.
Keep regular communication with homeworkers
A lot of homeworkers suffer from loneliness and isolation whilst at home.
That's why it's important for managers to keep communication going on a regular basis. This is easily done through phone-calls and video-calling technology. Whatever your methods are, make sure they're included in your homeworking policy.
A regular communication period should be upheld by both line-managers and colleagues. Keep homeworkers updated on any company changes or new work arrangements.
Provide cyber-security and data protection training
When an employee works from home, they should be aware of security risks.
It's best practice to provide all employees with cyber-security and data protection training. Security training should extend to using office and personal equipment.
As you utilise more technology within your company, make sure homeworkers follow security training. Make sure you regularly review and update the terms in your homeworking policy, too.
Promote good work-life balance
When employees are working from home, it's very common for them to overwork.
That's why it's important for managers to promote good work-life balance. This is especially common with those who want to overperform; or are struggling with the transition.
By promoting a good work balance, employees will be able to maintain personal arrangements. For example, like childcare or other caring responsibilities.
Your homeworking policy should highlight benefits employees can enjoy in both their work and home life.
Get expert advice on your homeworking policy with Croner
Every company has a legal duty to protect employee wellbeing during work. And this includes protecting home-workers.
If a manager fails to follow proper homeworking policy procedures, it could account to serious consequences. Like injured colleagues, unlimited compensation, and business damages.
But you don’t need to deal with this alone. Croner offers expert advice on your homeworking policy. Our team of involved HR advisors and qualified solicitors are here to offer their assistance and support.
Need more advice on your homeworking policy? Speak to a Croner expert about any HR or UK law issue on 0800 470 2589.
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