Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Staff working from home

The UK government is now focusing on delaying the spread of coronavirus. Businesses are considering the possibility of asking staff to work from home, where possible.

Many employers are already trialling home-working for office-based staff before any potential quarantine. This lets them test home working in a controlled way, before having to do it for real.

There are a number of things to consider when making arrangements for staff to work from home where their job role permits this.

Employers should consider whether they can request an employee to work from home. You should check to see whether there is a mobility clause in the contract of employment which will usually say that the employee will be required to work within a reasonable distance which is likely to amount to a contractual right to request that an employee works from home.

A mobility clause is, of course, subject to a reasonable test but it seems likely that the home address will be deemed reasonable. Even if there is not a mobility clause in the contract of employment, it seems likely that such a request by an employer will be deemed reasonable particularly given the current climate.

Matters for employers to consider when implementing home working are as follows:

  • Providing equipment – Some staff may have their own computer, laptop and phone that may be able to be utilised in an emergency situation. Employers should consider supplying computers, laptops, printers and phones to facilitate working from home efficiently. If a member of staff does not wish to use their own equipment for work purposes, an employer is likely to say that this is a reasonable request in the circumstances. If the request is refused, an employer may need to deal with this as a disciplinary matter and perhaps issue a written warning depending on the facts of the case. Employers will need to consider how best to manage the risks associated with confidential information and data protection when staff are working from home.
  • Health and safety – An employer has a duty to ensure that they are providing a safe place to work. This can be easily addressed by asking the employee to check their home address is a safe place to work. The majority will say yes and health and safety will not be an issue. In the unlikely event they say no, you should ask why and consider paying for any small adaptions, if necessary.
  • Costs for services – Employers will need to consider making a payment towards costs of phone, gas, electric, internet and other utility costs. Most phones have fixed sums per month with no additional costs incurred. It is worth bearing in mind that many employees will have substantial savings on commuting costs as they won’t be paying for petrol or train tickets so some agreement could be made to take account of this.
  • Monitoring staff to make sure the work is done – It is obviously more difficult to monitor staff working from home. For the 2, 3, 4 months of any emergency situation arising from the Coronavirus, most employers would rather have staff working at home doing something rather than doing nothing at all. The majority of staff are going to be grateful for their ability to work from home and will been keen to work as hard as they can to help the business keep going in difficult trading conditions. They may be mindful of others facing redundancy or on a zero hours contract without the ability to work from home. Hopefully, most staff will do the best job they can from home to help avoid the risk of future redundancies. It is in everybody’s best interests to be as flexible as possible.
  • Home working policy – Employers should consider implementing a home working policy. This should deal with how to set up home working, health and safety, confidentiality and data protection, accessing home to carry out checks, install equipment etc.

If you require any advice on home working, lay off, redundancies or any other employment matters, please contact Farleys’ employment team by visiting www.farleys.com/contact-us.