The coronavirus has undeniably had a major impact on all sectors of employment, specifically affecting employees who have care commitments, whose line of work cannot traditionally be undertaken at home (such as those who work in retail or hospitality) and those who are self-employed as well as bringing much uncertainty and change regarding the future for many independent businesses and organisations across the globe.
Here at Thrive Law, we have set up an email for any employment queries you may have in relation to Covid-19, further information regarding this may be found down below.
Given the recent guidance that where possible, employees should be working from home and then the prospect of the schools closing we need to all start thinking outside the box and considering ways in which we can make home working and flexible working a success.
Working from Home
Can employers stipulate to employees that they are set to be working from home until further notice, even if an employee does not want to?
In light of the government guidance this week, to work from home and with the schools closing it would be a lawful order to send staff home to work, even where they don’t want to. You should work with them though and ensure all employers take note of our considerations set out below.
Home working considerations
As an employer, if you would like an employee to work from home, there are some key points that must be considered: (please note, the considerations set out below will be different for every organisation and are listed by way of guidance)
- Health and Safety – Under statutory regulation and implied terms, an employer must ensure they are providing a safe system of work for their employees, under their duty of care owed. This can be achieved by simply asking employees if they are able to work from home and if they have any objections or any requirements/adaptions that they may need to make
- Providing Equipment – Depending on the sector of employment an employee is in, equipment may need to be supplied (by the employer) in order for an employee to carry out their role from home efficiently. This may be difficult by way of providing equipment to each individual employee, especially if they are no longer in office premises but at home. However, a majority of employees should simply require a laptop, a phone and in some cases a printer where possible. Although, this would not apply to employees working in customer facing roles such as retail and hospitality or within factories for obvious reasons.
In the instance that an employer requests employees to use their own equipment in order to work from home, such as a personal laptop, subject to an employee refusing to do so, this request could be deemed as a reasonable and lawful order under current circumstances by an employer. Meaning an employee’s refusal on these grounds could become a disciplinary matter that would be dealt with by a written warning or ultimately dismissal for conduct or some other substantial reason, in opposed to being made redundant.
- Paying for Use of Home Services – An employer may be expected to contribute towards any additional costs an employee may incur whilst using their home as a temporary office – this may include materials such as ink, paper etc. However, it is likely that some employees will have accrued savings as a result of working from home due to no longer commuting, paying for petrol/train tickets/bus tickets (unless they have a prepaid seasonal pass) so this set of savings may combat any forthcoming costs.
- Monitoring Staff – Employers are expected to monitor their staff’s output whilst working remotely. However, employers are also being advised to personally check in with staff during this transition period, as we all slowly come to terms with the fact that we may be facing 1-4 months of social isolation. Many employers are also coming to realise that they would much rather have staff working from home in efforts to continue running their business remotely, rather than having to completely shut down the business and subsequently let go of employees. Equally, staff who are on full-time contracts who have the ability to work from home will be very grateful in comparison to those on zero-hour contracts or self-employed, isolating without any pay. As such, it is likely that staff working remotely will be looking to do the best they can, illustrating higher levels of productivity when working from home, especially to avoid the potential risk of future redundancies or dismissals.
- Mental health – working from home can be create social isolation which can lead to increased symptoms for depression and anxiety – see out blog here which you could share with staff to help improve their wellbeing. We have also collaborated with Champion Health and created a tool which can assist employees with improving their immune system and mental health. You can access this FREE tool here.
- Communication – we suggest encouraging facetime and video calls and avoiding overload in emails. Emails can be less productive and if they replace office conversations can cause more admin and reduce the contact time people have. We suggest daily catch ups between teams by call or video. We are also implementing a weekly team video meeting where we can deliver updates rather than sending a mass email out.
- Working with children at home – this can be done to a degree; in the current circumstances we recommend exploring this with staff, if they are willing to, of course! Where they have a partner at home too, they could perhaps split the childcare or timetable it between them so they can guarantee a certain amount of hours each day. Where the children are older this may mean they can timetable some time to work from home and then work when they are in bed etc. This is all subject to agreement with the employee, but where people can’t afford to take unpaid leave and where business can facilitate home working, we are encouraging employers and employees to think outside the box in these unprecedented times, to come up with ways to continue working on a temporary basis.
This national move to home working, forces business and employees to think and work differently and may be the push some need to see better and more efficient ways of working. As a result Thrive Law have gone from paper light to a paper free firm and were talking about the impact of the atmosphere and how none of us are travelling and gaining hours back which we can spend doing exercise, reading or something that you wouldn’t normally have time to do.
At this unprecedented time, we do need to take the positives form some of the situations we find ourselves in and we hope this blog has been helpful. If you feel like the current pandemic is impacting your mental health or you would like tried and tested tips on how to look after your wellbeing whilst staying inside, we have released a blog here.
We intend to publish another post today to support both employers and employees with planning for school closures.
Our Coronavirus enquiries email service remains online; if you have any questions at all, we will respond within 48 hours. We’re really passionate about guiding businesses through these difficult times, with as much compassion as possible for the employees Please do get in touch at email@example.com
Written by the Thrive tribe