How to manage a temporary period of homeworking?
What is Homeworking?
Homeworking is when a member of staff is allowed to conduct their daily duties from home on an occasional, temporary or permanent basis. In its simplest terms, it means that employees work from home with the same contractual obligations, such as core working hours, pay and adherence to usual company policy.
Essentially, homeworking is a type of flexible working arrangement that allows staff to work outside of traditional 9 to 5 days. All employees have the right to request flexible working hours after 26 weeks of continuous service, which can include home working. Whilst you do not need to permit flexible working, or homeworking, you would have to consider it in this situation and provide sound business reasons for its refusal. For more information on flexible working, please get in touch with Pink Fluff HR.
As of 22 September 2020, office workers are once again being encouraged in England to work from home if they can - guidance that never changed in Scotland and Wales - as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Benefits of Homeworking
Homeworking can be a very popular option with staff, providing them with a degree of flexibility whilst also assisting them in meeting the demands of their role. With studies showing that modern workers tend to gravitate towards roles that do offer flexibility such as this, homeworking can be a good way of both attracting and retaining key talent to your company.
Staff who are able to work from home can be available to look after their children if necessary, something that can be very helpful to working parents in particular. Such an option can help to avoid them having to take prolonged periods of time away from work or even leaving their role entirely, an issue that can lead to working mothers in particular missing out on key opportunities for progression.
During the coronavirus outbreak, asking staff to work from home puts them at a decreased risk of getting the virus and therefore having to spend a prolonged period of time away from work whilst sick. This is because they will have less opportunity in which to come into contact with it, such as on public transport. There is also less chance of them bringing the virus into work with them if they do remain at home.
Maintaining a Homeworking Policy
Whether you are thinking of implementing homeworking on a permanent basis, or as purely temporary measure, it is advisable for you to have a clear company policy. This policy can outline eligibility requirements for homeworking, the process for applying for and accepting this period and how such an arrangement will work in practice. For more information on Homeworking Policy, please contact Pink Fluff HR
Assessing home environments
Employers have a duty of care towards the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff, and this extends to those who work from home. To this end, before permitting any member of staff to enter into a homeworking arrangement, you need to check that their home environment is suitable.
You will need to assess the space that is in their home in which they will have to work and whether there are any hazards that could place them at risk. If they are to use any appliances, such as a computer, you will need to make sure that this will not place them at any undue risk that they would otherwise not have come into contact with had they stayed in the usual workplace. All employees who are allowed to work from home should also be reminded of the company’s health and safety policies.
Ideally, a full health and safety risk assessment should be conducted on the workspace, but if this is going to be a quick arrangement then there may not be time in which to facilitate this. Instead, you can ask the employee to conduct an assessment of their working space and report back to you in order to determine its suitability. For more information on health and safety risk assessments please contact Pink Fluff HR
Managing the Homeworker
Once the period of homeworking has begun, it is important to keep in regular contact with the employee. You should set them clear targets to work towards and invite them to outline why these targets have not been met as a way of making sure that tasks are still being completed. One option is to request that they submit daily or weekly reports whilst the period of homeworking continues. By keeping in regular contact, you can also keep them up to date on all developments, such as the company’s continued response to the coronavirus issue.
It is also important to maintain this contact with the employee in order to ensure that they are not being adversely affected by the arrangement. Whilst some individuals may prefer working from home, others may start to feel isolated, something that could potentially impact upon their performance. If an issue such as this does start to develop, it may be that the agreement needs to be re-assessed.
If your company has access to an Employee Assistance Programme, you should also remind your staff that they are able to use this.
What to do if the homeworking arrangement does not work during the coronavirus outbreak?
If you decide that the homeworking arrangement is not working and your business remains open, you can terminate the agreement and ask the employee to return to work as normal. If the employee refuses to return, you might consider treating this as a disciplinary matter, however it is advisable to have a degree of flexibility.
If you have had to close the business as a result of the virus and the individual is deemed unable to be given work whilst at home or elsewhere, they would need to be placed on lay-off.