Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Employer Responsibilities For Homeworkers Explained

Many of us have recently found ourselves plunged into the world of homeworking, with little choice or warning. However, more and more of us are starting to see the benefits of working from home.

If you are considering moving some of your staff to working from home full-time or offering more flexible working options, there is a lot to consider.  As an employer, you might be feeling lost as to what your responsibilities actually are. Here are 7 things you should know before you consider making your employees homeworkers.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant more employees are than ever are working remotely. According to a poll for inews last year, more than four out of 10 office workers have worked from home during the pandemic. The trend towards greater remote working is unlikely to be reversed, with the BBC reporting that the number of employees eager to work from home on a regular basis has increased from 18% pre-Covid to 36% post. 

So, with more people working from home, what responsibilities do employers have towards their employees?

Working hours - Employers should specify the number of hours to be worked and the amount of flexibility available to employees. For example, can employees work their weekly hours at any time or do daily hours need to be met. You should also clarify when employees are required to be available for meetings and calls, do not just assume that employees are working 9-5.

It is also important that you and your employee understand that while working from home any travel to or from the office or a client meeting will be considered part of their working hours. Unlike the traditional commute, when working from home your travel is part of your working hours.

Expenses - Working from home means employees will end up using their own internet, lighting and stationery, which can seem small but will add up over time. As an employer you should clarify what expenses you will cover and what must be covered by your employee. Make sure you consider; home upkeep costs (lighting, internet etc.), postal costs, stationery, printing and travel costs.

Data Protection - With employees working from home ensure you have considered how you will be keeping your company data, intellectual property and your employees safe. Consider the use of their device, ensuring passwords are adequate and providing any necessary equipment to maintain data protection i.e., a shredder, CCTV or a filing cabinet. Make sure your expectations for how employees handle data at home is explicit.

Benefits - if your onsite employees have access to benefits you must ensure that homeworking staff have those same benefits. Failure to consider this could end in an allegation or breach of contract. For example, if your employees have access to an onsite gym, make sure any homeworking staff have the same level of access.

Health and Safety - As an employer you are responsible for the health and safety of your staff, including any homeworking staff. Health and safety inspectors may request to visit homeworking employees. It is important that you conduct risk assessments on homeworking environments and create a policy to regularly review them.

Performance Review - As an employer you should still be conducting regular performance reviews for your employees. There should be no change to your review performance and quality policies. It may be the case that while working from home employees feel isolated and without support, so ensure support and regular reviews are in place.

Tax - There is no change to the tax status of an employee working from home. You still deduct income tax and national insurance contributions as normal. However, you may advise the employee to check any potential council tax liability due to homeworking. In addition, some of their homeworking expenses may be tax-deductible.