the Covid-19 pandemic
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David Bradley, Chairman & Head of Employment at Ramsdens Solicitors, highlights what key considerations employers must take amid the Covid-19 pandemic

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been unprecedented encouragement by the government to work from home where possible. But what do employers need to consider when transitioning their business to operate remotely?

Below are listed four important issues;

Safe working environment

Every employer has a duty in this regard. How do you risk assess whether it is safe to allow your staff to work from home? Perhaps the easiest way is some form of survey. Ask questions about desk and seating and general welfare provisions. Future claims for back issues etc. cannot be ruled out with certainty but a risk assessment will help. More practically what if the employee says they have no sensible workspace and chair? The safe advice would be to provide equipment if you require output. Employers should check their insurance coverage. Imagine an employee falling over a file or briefcase whilst working from home. Is the employer covered under their employee liability insurance? A work provided laptop or printer causes a fire. Will the employer’s insurance or household insurance cover that? These are questions for employers to consider and in practice, it may be a question of employers backfilling on these questions given the scramble to maintain continuity and move employees to home working.

Access to IT

Will you provide equipment or will employees use their own and link to your servers?

IT is a huge issue and employers will need to be mindful not only about access but also security in terms of confidential information and virus protection. Remote device policies should be drafted if they do not already exist;

Performance, output and monitoring

Will employers expect equivalent output – why not? Can employers monitor performance and output? If you already have a privacy policy which is likely to deal with monitoring then there is no reason why this should not extend to working from home. Difficulties arise with the use of “own” equipment. There will be no right to monitor the private aspects of a workers laptop or their private life at home. If your compromise is that you will allow own device working, employers will have to accept that monitoring will be less complete than if the employee was in the office using a desktop computer.

Performance evaluation is likely to be confined to measuring output and the meeting of deadlines. Then again a more simplistic approach may prove refreshing and more beneficial to business.

Costs and expenses

Will employees expect to be reimbursed for telephone and broadband costs, the cost of refreshments or other items they may have received for free at work? They might. Reasonable employers might enquire as to what is “additional” cost and make good in that regard. Employees may benefit in any event from reduced travel costs. Employers might use that argument to persuade employees not to be pedantic about contributions to home costs where there is no marginal difference for use. For example, if the employee has unlimited broadband and telephone calls.

Homeworking tips

These might be helpful as a guide. Some obvious ones might be;

  1. Prepare for work as normal – get out of your pyjamas;
  2. Create a defined workspace, free from interruption if possible;
  3. Maintain verbal contact by phone – both ways – employers should consider regular briefing and update conference calls;
  4. Take breaks;
  5. Be mindful of confidentiality.

Many people will be more productive from home. It may become a trend!

There will not be a perfect solution to all of the issues. Communication and information will be key. We hope that employment levels will be maintained through this crisis and that will require flexibility on the part of both employers and employees. Homeworking will be but one facet of that.


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