The impact of the Coronavirus is likely to change the way in which many businesses work moving forward. Employees across many industries have demonstrated that they can successfully work from home, without this having a detrimental impact on the business of their employer. Government advice has moved away from ‘work from home if you can’ to encouraging employees to return to the workplace, and providing employers with more discretion, subject to certain requirements being met. Many employees would now rather work from home. This could be for a number of reasons including anxieties around Covid-19, to a better work-life balance they experience when working from home.
With this in mind, employers are having to think about the way that they will operate and how they will manage employees working from home.
Acas has published guidelines which include practical points for employers to consider regarding employees working from home. Employers should ensure that communication with their employees is as transparent as possible with individual needs being considered. A record of written arrangements should be kept ensuring that all parties are clear on what has been agreed.
When it comes to what employers expect from employees, adjusting to homeworking has been a challenge for many, particularly those who had not worked from home previously. It is important to have a healthy relationship of trust and confidence between employers and employees and employers and managers should ensure that those working from home know what is expected of them. This includes agreeing the hours that employees are expected to work and how work-life balance will be managed, how managers and employees will keep in touch with one another and how performance will be measured.
Practicalities must also be considered when it comes to discipline and grievances, and the employer’s normal disciplinary and grievance procedures will apply to homeworkers in the same way as other employees. An employer may wish to update their disciplinary and grievance rules to set out specific issues that may arise in connection with homeworking. For example, prohibiting employees from using work time for domestic, family or other commitments. That being said, given the current pandemic, employers should make allowances where, for example, employees do not have access to their usual childcare. Employers may also wish to have a separate homeworker policy in place setting out arrangements for homeworking and dealing with issues regarding equipment, data protection and health and safety.
If an employee working from home raises a grievance, or if they become subject to disciplinary proceedings it is important the Acas guidelines, and the employer’s own policies are followed in the same way as if the employee was working in the office. Where it is not possible to hold face-to-face meetings in respect of any disciplinary/grievance matter, meetings should be held via video calls, not forgetting the employees’ rights to be accompanied to certain meetings. In this instance, their companion should also be present, even where the meeting is held remotely.
If you have any queries regarding managing homeworkers or advice regarding updating your disciplinary and grievance procedures to accommodate homeworking, please contact our Employment Team on 020 8290 0440.