This home working pack will help you review and update your policies and practices easily, allowing your staff to work from home as efficiently as possible, as cyber safely as possible, and ensuring employers remain compliant with health & safety and contractual obligations.
This article contains:
- A Homeworking policy to add to your staff handbook and issue to your teams.
- A Risk assessment which can be completed by the employee and includes questions assessing technology, data security & confidentiality and additional information for higher risk cases, for example expectant mothers. Carrying out initial and periodic risk assessments for homeworking fits well into this the comprehensive plan
- A list of useful sites and up to date resources. There is a wealth of information online covering every aspect of home working. At the bottom of this article are listed well known and up to date sites.
The general move to hybrid working arrangements for employees means more homeworking, so these documents can be incorporated into your hybrid working policies. There are now many reasons why an employer and an employee may agree homeworking – hybrid working – arrangements. It is important to explain what is expected during homeworking and ensure the worker and manager are clear how the new homeworking arrangement will work. We recommend writing to the worker to set out the changes to the employment contract and the new homeworking policy and ask the worker to agree to the changes so there is a clear record of the agreed changes.
Explain the change in working arrangements to employees and confirm in writing
With the pandemic fast forwarding a greater acceptance of home working and a new of era of flexibility, there are now many reasons why an employer and employee may agree on homeworking arrangements. It is important to explain to what is expected during homeworking and ensure employee and linemanager are both clear on how the new homeworking arrangement will work. We recommend writing to the employee to set out the changes to the employment contract and the new homeworking policy and ask the them to agree to the changes, so there is a clear record of the agreed changes
Below are elements you need to consider, and we suggest cover, in a letter to your home workers. Include the home working policy and risk assessment that you can download here and amend when you send the letter. Employers should remember to give themselves the flexibility to require workers on notice to return back to working in the office.
The letter represents a change to the worker’s contract so needs to be customised for the relevant home worker. Get in touch if you need more advice and guidance on getting this right for your particular situation, or if you need a template letter to start from.
Why is it so important to issue a formal letter ?
Employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees, including those who work from home, under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974: As part of these duties:
- Employers are required to carry out a risk assessment to identify hazards and take steps to remove these. This risk assessment can be done by the employee and submitted to the employer for review.
- Employers must keep a record of the findings of the risk assessment and keep the risks under review.
- Employers are responsible for any equipment they provide to be safe and suitable, and must provide appropriate eye tests, on request.
- New and expectant mothers are owed a special duty of care under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.
- Employers should check they have appropriate insurance cover for homeworkers, including statutory employer’s liability insurance, and insurance covering any equipment or materials, and
- Treat employees fairly and consistently whether at work or home working.
Health & Safety Executive (HSE) guidance for employers on protecting home workers.
A Homeworking policy sets out the basis for working from home, the assessment criteria, the necessary arrangements and how home working will be managed going forward.
Contact us for help customising this template Homeworking policy for your particular situation.
Homeworker’s risk assessment
This risk assessment should be sent with the letter and homeworking policy to the homeworker. It can be completed by the homeworker and includes questions assessing technology, data security & confidentiality and additional information for higher risk cases for example expectant mothers. It also includes a critically important final question so easily missed by employers.
Setting up effective homeworking
The Health & Safety Executive have produced a working from home toolbox and video here and a display screen equipment (DSE) checklist here
Systems and data security for home workers
Protecting data security and data confidentiality in a homeworking setting.
Businesses still have a legal responsibility to ensure that they have sufficient data security and data protection practices in place for homeworking as well as health and safety considerations for employees. There are increased risks from:
– malware attacks
– data breaches
– use of down devices, and
– adoption of new technology which has been poorly implemented, secured or assessed may arise
Employers are responsible for data security and protection of personal information. This remains the case when any member of your workforce is homeworking.
Employees must try to maintain the same standards of data confidentiality and security at home as they would normally do in the office.
Phishing attacks sky rocketed during the pandemic and continue to be a problem with significant numbers targeted at home workers. (At the height of the lockdown Google was blocking 18 million coronavirus scam emails every day). Do warn and train your staff to avoid a disruptive security breach and IT misuse from these attacks.
Employers may want to think about:
- Putting an ‘IT and Systems in Homeworking’ Policy in place to manage your remote team and keep your data secure.
- Asking your employees to complete a working from home assessment Offering employees (including those furloughed) online training or webinars on data security and confidentiality while working from home
- Reviewing access to internal systems, security of employees own devices and updated anti-malware and virus protection across all devices.
For more information and advice on data security and confidentiality, and what to do once your risk assessments are in, contact Karen Heaton at www.dpo4buiness.co.uk who works closely with The Legal Partners when we advise clients on these issues.
Practical tips for homeworking to share with your staff
Some important reminders to keep in mind and review from time to time with all existing staff and new joiners who are working from home.
Define your space – have a dedicated area for work, however small, to separate work life from home life. Ideally in a separate area, but otherwise any quiet area.
Working from home equipment – as employers will not be able to see the working from home set-up of certain staff, it is important to keep in regular discussions regarding employee’s working from home equipment (ie making sure laptops, monitors and headphones are functional and up to date), in order to ensure that all employees are equipped to manage their workload from home.
Sitting correctly – in an ideal situation, every employee should have a fit-for-purpose work chair and desk as well as desk equipment set up professionally. Make sure you have checked in with your team on these elements.
Working in natural light, sitting with correct posture in the best chair possible, ensuring laptop screens are positioned at eye height and using external keyboard & mouse wherever possible, are all important elements to get right. Check in with your teams on these aspects, and use/share the links in the section above.
Take regular short breaks – every 20 minutes, look up, stretch, walk about, reach out to a colleague, open a window and get some fresh air. Make time to eat lunch properly.
Establish a routine – establishing some familiarity can help people stay productive and to feel in control, happier at work. Set regular hours and stick to the schedule.
Plan the day – set a plan for each day and where possible stick to it.
Work-life balance – many people have family, caring responsibilities and household set ups that make keeping to their usual work hours difficult, and can make working from home a challenge. Discuss with people individually what working from home means for them, adapt working structures and agree a way forward.
Staying in touch – much has been written about this. Ironically, homeworking has proved a golden opportunity to break the much ingrained office habit of relying solely on email communication. Whether its by mobile, video chat, MS Teams, virtual tea-breaks or the many other ways to connect, make it a daily habit to have 5 or 10 minutes general chat. Plan quarterly virtual team-building get togethers, so that team members can establish a relationship outside of work activities.
Whatever technology is used, the point is don’t allow vacuums in communications to arise. Schedule regular ‘check in, check out’ team conference calls, at the beginning and end of the day. Dedicate part of the call to something not work-related. Ensure everyone is involved and heard, especially those who are not physically visible.
Employers increasingly expect line managers to take responsibility for their team’s health and wellbeing. Be mindful that more junior line managers may well need some coaching in how to do this for their teams.
Some firms have created ‘wellbeing platforms’; breaking areas down into mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, thought leadership and combining childcare with homeworking, inviting staff to contribute.
Training & upskilling. Many employers took the opportunity in lockdown to train and upskill their teams using the online resources, (Microsoft Excel topped the list of training courses taken during the pandemic). Continuing training programs, and promotions, when staff are homeworking is good for morale, and for moving forward.
Below are some helpful additional resources, tips and reminders on managing remote teams and all aspects of effective homeworking.
Additional homeworking resources
- CIPD | ‘Getting the most from home working‘ page has a series of top 10 tips for homeworking, divided into sections on:
managing remote teams
healthy remote working
effective online meetings
legal & contractual considerations (already covered in this article) and related content.
CIPD have made available a more general guide outlining some of the key aspects Managers need to consider when ‘preparing the organisation for home working‘.
- Acas | Working from home a short bullet list on much of the above plus setting clear expectations.