Although lockdown restrictions are being eased and there are glimpses of life returning to the old ‘normal’, some changes are likely to remain with us. One of these changes relates to the way we work. Many organisations have reported a permanent move to home working on either a full-time or hybrid basis. Others have reported an intention to permanently embrace other forms of flexible working in respect of how and when contractual hours are worked.
In either instance, organisations should carry out a legal compliance audit – this shouldn’t be particularly onerous. The key areas to audit include:
Do your contracts reflect the true place(s) of work and the employees’ hours?
Employees are legally entitled to be notified in writing of their place(s) of work and hours in writing. These are contractual terms and any change to them should ordinarily be implemented following a consultation exercise. However, the extent of that consultation exercise will vary depending on the change(s) being proposed and, more pertinently, the employee’s view of those changes. The written notification of the change can be by letter although, as the law relating to contracts of employment changed in April 2020, this may provide organisations with a perfect opportunity to bring their contracts of employment in line with the law.
Does your organisation have a Home Working Policy?
This policy can be included in a handbook or exist as a standalone policy. These policies can double as an efficient and effective way of informing employees of key matters for them to be aware of when undertaking home working including their data protection obligations.
Are your systems properly set up and maintained to allow the secure processing of data whilst staff are remote working?
Data protection legislation places a number of obligations on organisations and staff; failure to comply with data protection laws can result in the prosecution of an employee in their personal capacity.
Have the requisite health and safety audits been carried out?
Health and safety considerations play a key part in remote working with health and safety obligations extending to an employee’s home if that is their place of work for some or all of their working time. Health and safety checklists specifically aimed at home working should be issued to all employees and workers alike where applicable – these should be coupled with a direction that they are completed and returned. If there are any issues and/or red flags raised in the completed checklists, these should be investigated and addressed. The red flags should not be limited simply to physical factors such as desk set up, but also an employee’s mental health and wellbeing.
What are your supervision and support processes?
Appropriate processes should be implemented to both supervise and support workers. The processes will need tailoring in each instance to ensure they avoid the ‘micro-management’ label, but instead support the employee’s training and development plans as well as ensuring compliance with any regulatory requirements. Those processes should involve an element of team working.
Taken together, all of the above will hopefully place your organisation in the best position to utilise its staff and take advantage of the much-anticipated upturn in business as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.
Contact Jennie Jahina at Wilson Browne Solicitors on 0800 088 6004.