Implementing a homeworking policy is advisable. Employers which already have a homeworking policy should ensure it is up-to-date in light of new issues coming out of the pandemic. Such policies can provide clear guidance on a variety of issues in one document. Each policy would be bespoke according to the requirements of the employer, however key themes which should be included are:
- The situations when homeworking will be appropriate (whether permanent or temporary).
- How to apply for homeworking, including what employees will need to be able to demonstrate in order to be successful with an application.
- What equipment will be needed and the employee's responsibilities with regard to the equipment.
- Clear guidance on data security and confidentiality. The potential for a breach of confidentiality or data protection is heightened when information is taken out of the work environment. Employees should be given clear direction on what is expected of them, including what action to take if there is a breach. The homeworking policy could link to policies on computer use, electronic communications and data security, all of which should also be updated in light of the increased amount of home working.
- Health and safety issues when working from home. The policy could outline the employee's health and safety responsibilities and what steps the employer will need to take to protect the employee's health and safety. Consideration should be given as to how to report health and safety concerns and whether the employee is covered under the employer's accident insurance.
Employers should also re-visit contracts of employment to ensure they are fit for purpose and allow the appropriate degree of flexibility. For example, the employer may need the employee to attend the office for training, appraisals, disciplinaries or for away days. The employer may also wish to utilise trial periods or to reserve the right to review the home working arrangement depending on performance. Any such amendments would amount to a change in terms and conditions, consent should be sought. Please see below for further information on changing terms and conditions.