As Boris announced his new measures to subside the growing increase in coronavirus cases, the sense of another lockdown was looming. The UK population is now not allowed to meet in groups larger than 6. This newly enforced law marks a slow but definite regression back into lockdown life. So, what does this mean for remote working I hear you ask? As UK cases are on the rise, the likelihood of continuing with remote work indefinitely is getting more and more plausible. Due to this, it is important that everyone is well versed in the laws on working from home in the UK.
To begin with, it is important to state the need for employers to be sensitive to employees’ situations. They must understand and cater to their individual needs. As some may have childcare responsibilities for example, some may have underlying health conditions, so people will react to working remotely in different ways. Therefore, it is vital that employers offer their workers continual support. It is also important to consider that some may take longer to adjust to remote working. Whereas, some may get used to it right away. Similarly, some may struggle working from home and some may love it. Having the help in place will enable your employees to feel supported. This will therefore enable your business to excel during these difficult times.
- Laws on working from home- Health and Safety
- Mental health
- Laws on working from home- equipment and technology
- Checking the equipment and technology is properly working
- Pay and terms of employment
- Childcare arrangements
- Employers need to make themselves available
Laws on working from home- Health and Safety
The UK law states that even during the lockdown, employers are responsible for their employees’ health and safety. Due to people working from home, employers will no longer be able to complete risk assessments and make sure employees’ working situation is safe and secure. However, they should still implement certain measures to guarantee their employees safety:
- Managers must ensure employees feel safe in their working environment and that the work they are doing can be done safely
- Managers should be in regular contact with their employees, this is also important to make sure they don’t feel isolated or alone at any stage
- Employers must make sure that their staff have the correct equipment to work safely
- Reasonable adjustments must be made for those employees who have a disability
Employees must also ensure that they are taking the correct precautions to ensure their own safety. They can do this by being in regular contact with their managers and informing them of any issues that may arise. They must also notify their manager regarding:
- Any health and safety risks that arise
- If their current home working situation needs to change
Mental health issues have been on the rise since the emergence of the coronavirus and the nation-wide lockdown it caused. With it even being coined a ‘mental health emergency.’ With cases steadily rising again, the risk it poses to the UK population’s mental health is considerable. The virus is conducive to feelings of stress and anxiety, this is why it is incredibly important that employees feel supported by their managers.
Managers should encourage employees to take regular breaks from working at their computer and go outside or do some exercise. They should also motivate workers to undergo hobbies and activities that will help them relax and unwind. These can include yoga, cooking, reading, or exercising. This will help combat stress in the workplace.
Laws on working from home- equipment and technology
The equipment and technology provided by employers to facilitate employees in working from home is the employer’s responsibility. They must make sure it is safe for employees to use and is secure. The employer should:
- Discuss what the employee requires so to work successfully from home
- Agree on what will be provided for them
- Support the employee in setting up any new equipment
- Make sure the right technology is in place to facilitate employees in working from home e.g- necessary software downloaded on work laptops
Additionally, there are a lot of tools out there to help remote workers, in making their job and life a bit easier.
Checking the equipment and technology is properly working
Employers should consistently monitor how systems are operating and if they are safe to use. They must make any necessary improvements to technology. Things to consider when monitoring the functioning of the equipment include:
- Checking whether the IT systems can deal with the number of staff working remotely. It is important to be able to ensure that the systems won’t get overloaded and crash
- Monitoring the level of support provided to IT workers. As their job will get a lot busier with everyone working from home and requiring their assistance with IT related problems
- Assessing the equipment that would need to be posted out to employees and checking its fully functioning before sending it out
Pay and terms of employment
Staff who are working from home and are working the same amount of hours must, according to the UK laws on working from home, get the same amount of money for the work they do.
Employers also need to make sure that their remote employees are following the laws on working hours. The law on working from home working hours enforces that employees do not work more than 48 hours a week. However, there are exceptions, for example, if an employee needs to work more than 48 hours for whatever reason. Then the employee’s future working hours should be reduced to make up for them having worked more than the prescribed 48 hours. Additionally, if employees have agreed to work more than the legal requirement of 48 hours, by ‘opting out’ of the weekly limit then they are entitled to. Secondly, if they have a job which is not covered by the law on working hours, then these rules don’t apply to them.
If an employee is working more than the legal limit of 48 hours a week, and they have not ‘opted out’ then this should be brought up with their employer.
Some companies cover the expenses of their employees working from home. Sometimes working from home can run up costs for employees, including electricity, gas, therefore it is important to check with your employer to see if they will cover these expenses.
It is very important that employees check with their insurance companies that there are no issues related to them working from home. They should look over the details regarding their insurance policy, to see if they are covered. This is especially important if they’re using business equipment. They should check this with their: insurance company and mortgage provider/ landlord.
Employees who have childcare responsibilities must make their employers aware of their situation. It may be required for them to create an agreement towards a more flexible schedule. This could include:
- Working different hours to coincide with childcare or school pickup times
- Working part-time instead of full-time
- Being more flexible around impending deadlines
This same approach may also be required for those that are looking after someone who may be ill or an older relative.
Employers need to make themselves available
It is vital that employers establish themselves as available. They must make it clear that they are there to help their employees out with any issues they may have. They should emphasise the importance of employees keeping in touch with managers, communicating with other team members as well as other employees.