Over 60% of the UK's workforce are now remote working, so what do you need to know from a HR perspective?

After the latest message from the Government that office workers should stay at home if they can, coupled with the increasing number of local lockdowns that we are now seeing across the nation, so many employers are reverting to remote working for the foreseeable future.
But is it that simple to just ask employees to work from home?…We would love to yes, but actually working remotely raises a whole realm of issues that need to be considered from a HR perspective. Aside from the obvious practical issues, there are also a number of key legal issues that you need to be thinking about…so, what do you need to know?

  1. Contractual issues:-
    1. Place of work – do you have a contractual right to change their place of work? The majority of employees are unlikely to have an issue with working from home, but as a minimum make sure you discuss any changes (temporarily or permanent) with the employee.
    2. Hours of work-  do you want to change how the employee’s hours are structured? Do you want to flex their hours whilst they are working from home? The way in which we work has shifted considerably during the pandemic, and many employers are changing where, how and the way in which they work. This issue is even more prevalent when dealing with childcare issues (more below).
    3. Expenses and/or insuranceswhat are you going to cover? Ultimately, it is up to you what you choose to cover in terms of costs for expenses, but it is always best to be clear with the employee so they are fully aware either way. Also consider the impact remote working may have on any insurances policies you may have.
  1. Working abroad remotely:-
    1. Where is the employee’s ‘home’? Are they working remotely abroad? A number of employees have returned to their home country during COVID19, for personal reasons, immigration issues or perhaps a change of scenery! But international remote working alone opens up a whole heap of legal issues, particularly around tax, local employment law and health & safety regulations, immigration status (both in the UK and in their home country), payroll, corporate permanent establishment, data protection, insurances… the list goes on!
  1. Health and safety issues:- 
    1. Have you been or are you planning to carry out any risk assessments? If so, have you thought about the logistics of carrying those out in a socially distanced way? As their employer, you are responsible for their welfare, health and safety, “so far as is reasonably practicable” so the same will apply even when they are working remotely.
    2. Have you considered the ways in which you can support both your employees’ mental and physical health? Are there any employees that need extra support or reasonable adjustments to support them? The pandemic has had such a huge impact on our lives and some staff may need more support when adjusting to remote working, and all of the issues that come with that.
  1. Managing staff remotely:-
    1. How are you managing your staff remotely? Have you adapted your management processes so that you are suitably supporting, as well as disciplining and performance managing your staff whilst they are working from home?
    2. Have you considered any adjustments to their working arrangement, for not only managing staff with disabilities but also staff who may have other neurodiverse differences which might be exacerbated, or just not suited to working remotely?
  1. Working from home and childcare:- 
    1. What is your position on remote working whilst also providing childcare? In normal circumstances, it would not be appropriate for an employee to work from home whilst also providing childcare and this situation would only ever arise in an emergency. However, with some many children being sent home to self-isolate, this issue and your stance on it is something you will need to consider.
  1. Confidential information:-
    1. Do your existing IT/Data Protection policies cover homeworking and accessing data remotely? Be clear about not employees not sharing their passwords/pins, and any confidential documents with other members of their household.

As you can see, there are a whole host of issues to consider, so if you are considering remote working for the foreseeable future, you may want to update your contracts (if you haven’t already) so that they specifically cover homeworking, and the issues we have highlighted above.
Please do not hesitate to contact one of the team if we can help you build a strategy to address these issues.