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We thought it would be useful to remind businesses of some of the key points to consider when looking at home working.

Employees often see home working as a perk, however, employers should also assess the benefits of home working against risks when deciding whether to embrace home working permanently.

The benefits:

  1. A reduction in overheads: The need for expensive office space may be reduced and possibly avoided altogether.
  2. Increased productivity: Homeworkers are spared the travel and the associated travel disruption (transport problems and adverse weather). There is evidence that this increases work output.
  3. Better motivation: Many workers respond well to home working.
  4. Skills retention: Workers who might otherwise have moved on because of family relocation, new family commitments, or permanent disability may stay if offered home working.
  5. Team working: Travel time is no longer a burden and teams can be assembled quicker on remote platforms.

The risks:

  1. Loss of contact and damage to a team-working culture.
  2. Managers may not be able to support workers to the same degree when working from home.
  3. Businesses may be heavily reliant upon technology and could risk duplication of equipment.
  4. There is very much a need to trust workers who work from home and there may be a fear that workers may not ‘pull their weight’ from home.
  5. Businesses need to be extra vigilant about data security and breaches.

In general, we find that clients are embracing home working and the benefits associated with it.

Mitigate the risks:

  1. Amend contracts of employment to include home working: Consider changing the place of work clause to provide for working from home. Ensure that you can expressly require the employee to attend the office as and when needed for team meetings for example. Also, ensure that the hours of work, the maximum weekly working hours, and minimum rests are clear. The requirement to still attend the office and the clarity as to working hours should help reduce any risks associated with loss of contact and a worker not ‘pulling their weight’.
  2. Confidentiality and data protection: All employees have an implied duty of confidentiality which applies equally to home workers. However, it is advisable to include an express confidentiality clause in a home worker’s contract requiring a home worker to keep confidential information secure. Businesses may want to consider other measures to protect confidentiality, such as forbidding household members to access work equipment.  Passwords, encryption, a secure filing cabinet, and facilities for confidential disposal can all assist with compliance. Businesses should consider retraining home workers on what is and is not authorised use of data when at home. Home workers should also be clear on the employer’s data protection obligations.
  3. IT and communications: So that access can be monitored, businesses may want to consider updating IT and communications policies to protect the confidentiality of electronic information, the use of emails, the internet, and social media especially when working from home.
  4. Right to enter:  Businesses may want to reserve the right to enter an employee’s home to install, maintain, and service equipment and/or to carry out the required home working health and safety risk assessment, for example.
  5. Other considerations:  It is advisable to consider home working on a trial basis and ensure that homeworking can be bought to an end and in what circumstances. Also, ensure that adequate insurances are in place to cover business equipment being used at home. Businesses may want to consider requiring employees to take out and maintain adequate insurance for home working.
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