Legal-ease: Home working considerations

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The responsibilities of both employer and employee when considering home working arrangements

When exploring home working, and considering whether the role itself is actually suitable for this, an important first question needs to be whether the employee has an appropriate area for work. If the employee is going to work for prolonged periods from home they should have a permanent work area. Ideally this should include a desk, office chair, laptop, telephone line with access to the internet, printer and lockable storage cupboard. You will then need to decide who will pay for the equipment and may need to discuss this with the employee.

Working from home can be difficult. Not all employees are suited to this as they need to be able to manage their own time effectively and maintain their motivation and self-discipline. It can also be lonely at times and maintaining a team atmosphere often takes more work on the part of the employer. Employers need to ensure home workers are included in events, team building activities, training and communications to prevent isolation.

Employers can be liable for personal injury claims from employees when they work at home. It is therefore prudent to carry out a health and safety assessment. Employees can carry out their own ergonomic workstation assessment, with assistance, and complete a questionnaire regarding such issues as tripping hazards, electrical equipment testing and fire alarms. Employers can request photographs of workstations for company records to ensure compliance and to provide evidence that procedures have been carried out.

It is advisable to agree certain parameters in advance of employees working from home. This ensures that they know what is expected of them and can prevent issues in the future. For example, the employee might be required to be available to work and answer calls between 9am and 5pm every day and cannot decide to start at 10am one day and ‘make the time up later’.

Outline any supervision tasks that need to be undertaken such as time sheets, records and any other requirements. The employee should know who their line manager is and when they are supposed to communicate with them. If the employee has to attend the office at any time this should be set out in advance.

To achieve the benefits of home working, while ensuring risks to the business are minimised, employers need to put in this groundwork before the arrangements commence.

Sarah Dillon is a director at ESP Law, provider of the HR Legal Service

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