The move to hybrid working and the 9 issues you need to consider
The Covid-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for change on the future of work. Hybrid working is now here to stay, and employers will have to take a flexible approach.
What the pandemic has shown us is that one size will not fit all, and that ways of working need to adapt to balance out the multiple needs of employers, employees and the customer or client base that they serve.
What issues have to be considered as part of the move towards hybrid working?
Changes to contracts
New ways of working will require contracts to be updated. If, for instance, an employee makes a move to work from home on a permanent basis this will have to be reflected in the contract of employment.
There may be a move away from fixed 9-5 hours, or core hours, towards a mode of working where employees can work flexibly as long as the job gets done. Consideration will have to be given to how the employer can maintain control if things aren't working.
Other things to consider are setting out any formal reporting procedures, an agreement on the employee's part to comply with all health and safety guidelines, and with any data protection and confidential information policies.
Health and safety obligations
Employers are under a legal obligation to provide safe systems of work and a safe working environment. Part of this obligation entails preparing risk assessments. There is no prohibition on an employee doing their own risk assessment if they are working from home. The employer could ask an employee to complete a risk assessment providing photos and verbal/written explanation where they believe there is an issue. The employer's health and safety manager could then review this and pick up any issues that have been identified, putting appropriate measures in place where necessary.
Ensure breaks are being taken
It is impossible to monitor whether employees working from home are taking breaks so it's important that the limits of working time are established. The employer should establish whether those working remotely will observe strict office hours or, alternatively, specify “core hours” when employees and workers are expected to be available for work. Employees should be reminded that they are responsible for taking breaks and regulating their hours as a failure to do so could breach the provisions in the Working Time Regulations.
Data protection issues
Employees may need specific training on their obligations and those of the employer in relation to data protection and confidentiality. Employers should also carry out a data privacy impact assessment of the data protection implications of employees working from home.
It helps if the employer's expectations are set out clearly when it comes to remote supervision. An employee should have regular catch-ups with their manager to review not only the work they are carrying out, but also to discuss any other issues they may have. It's important to keep communication channels open.
Health and wellbeing
Remote working can be an isolating experience. It's key for employers to provide an environment where employees feel able to be open and honest about how they're feeling. Any resources and support on offer should be clearly signposted so that employees know where to access them.
Employers also need to be aware that stress, though not in itself a disability, can lead to conditions which will satisfy the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010.
Any adjustments made for disabled employees at work to enable them to carry out their job effectively must also be made so far as possible in a home environment to facilitate their effective working. Employees should be asked what they might need and equipment that has been used in the office can be delivered to the employee's home. Any technology used by the employer should be accessible to the visually impaired, and those with hearing impairments must be able to access any meetings. Finally, if relevant adjustments cannot all be made, there may be a consequential impact on an individual's performance so allowances should be made for this.
Provision of equipment
There's no legal obligation on an employer to provide the equipment necessary for homeworking, but if it is needed for health and safety reasons, or as a reasonable adjustment for a disabled employer, then the employer may have to pay for it.
Another issue to consider is who will insure any equipment? It may be covered by the employer's insurance, but the employee may have to insure it, in which case it will be necessary to decide whether the cost is covered by the employee, or whether the employer will make a contribution.
Some employees will have particular conditions in mortgage agreement and tenancy agreements prohibiting them from using their accommodation for business purposes without prior permission. Employees should check the terms of any agreement for this eventuality and, if it exists, inform their landlord or mortgage provider.Agile working may be here to stay, but careful thought still needs to be given to its implementation. Our employment team advises organisations on their move to agile working, and this helpful guide will provide guidance on how we can help you with your agile working arrangements.