Homeworking is a type of flexible working which, depending on the agreement between employer and employee, can be also used in conjunction with other arrangements such as flexible hours, working part-time, term-time working or the employer’s core hours.
Homeworking can be a great way to fit work around other commitments, such as childcare or caring for elderly relatives. It can also be used to reduce commuting time and costs.
A working from home policy clarifies the expectations and procedures for employees who wish to work from home. It is important to have such a policy in place so that there is a clear understanding of the company’s expectations and procedures regarding homeworking.
As an Employer, you have the option of incorporating homeworking as part of a flexible or hybrid policy, whereby employees are still required to come into the office on set days of the week.
Alternatively, you might be content with permitting your employees to work from home on a full-time basis.
Working from home: Benefits to Employers
Having employees who work from home permanently can be a great benefit to employers.
These benefits include:
- Employees based in different geographical areas which means organisations can recruit from a wider area.
- Saves costs of expensive commercial premises as they can have fewer or smaller premises.
- Helps protect business continuity as the business can be spread over different locations, rather than being focused in one location.
Working from Home: Benefits to Employees
Not only do employers reap the benefits of staff working from home, but employees do too:
- The arrangement allows employees to work for an employer outside the geographical area they’d normally be forced to work in.
- They are able to avoid the daily commute.
- Provides greater flexibility to the UK staff member.
Will working from home continue after Covid-19?
There have always been employers with homeworkers but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, homeworking has become the norm rather than the exception.
During the pandemic many employers were compelled to allow staff to work from home in accordance with government guidance, forcing a shift in approach to homeworking for many businesses, and so it is likely that homeworking will become more common in the future, whether as a full-time arrangement or as part of a hybrid working pattern.
Homeworking Legalities for Employers & Employees
Any employee who is recruited on the basis that they’ll work from home will need to have this fact set out in their contract of employment.
If an employee wants to change their working arrangement so that they can work from home, they’ll need an agreement with their employer as it’s not an automatic right in the UK for employees to work from home. It’s then up to the employer to decide whether they’re going to allow the change.
If the employee has been with the company for at least 26 weeks, they can ask to work from home as part of a flexible working request. In that case, the employer is required to follow the statutory procedure for dealing with flexible working requests.
If the change is agreed to, the employer needs to change the employee’s contract so that it reflects the new arrangements.
In addition to ensuring the individual contract is amended, employers should also have a Homeworking Policy.
What Should the Homeworking Policy Include?
A homework policy in the UK should set out the rules around homeworking and explain what is expected of those working from home so that expectations are in alignment.
The policy needs to include:
- Whether the arrangement is temporary or permanent.
- There is a trial period and how long that will be.
- The locations the employee can work from.
- The expectations of an employee working from home.
- When they’ll need to come into the workplace.
- What equipment the employer will supply for homeworking.
- Data security considerations.
- How the employer can end the arrangement if needs be.
- Health and safety requirements.
This last point is an important one that’s often overlooked, as the employee’s home becomes an extension of their workplace. This means that the employer can be held liable for any accidents the employee has at home while they’re working.
As a matter of law, employers must provide employees with employment contracts that cover the key terms of their employment relationship. However, it is also good practice to have non-contractual policies and procedures in place, such as an employee handbook. This can sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and can help prevent or resolve disputes between employees and employers.
Your responsibility as an Employer
As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship, but the contract won’t cover all of the policies, procedures and expectations for the relationship between a business and the people within it. A employee handbook can include information for all team members, including employees, workers, apprentices and agency staff. Not only can a employee handbook bring together useful guidance for everyone on the culture, values and expectations the business as but it will often be a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a dispute. The non-contractual policies and procedures that can be included in a employee handbook will sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and how the employer will deal with certain situations.
Putting all the policies and procedures together in one place that is accessible to everyone working in a business is good practice and can provide an invaluable framework for reference on all of the HR issues to cover. If any grievance or dispute arises, having a policy or procedure to refer to and follow can help prevent the situation escalating. If the worst occurs and a claim comes before a tribunal, being able to show the policies and procedures that were followed can make a huge difference to the outcome.
Homeworking has become the norm for many businesses all over the UK. If that’s the case for you, you’ll need a policy in your Employee Handbook for it. For more information about Homeworking Policies get in touch with our Employment Law team on 0330 912 8338.
© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022
© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022
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