Work from home
Employees have the right to request to work from home, regardless of the length of employment. The request must be in writing and doesn't require a specific reason. The employer has one month to reply, and if they decline the request, they must present a good business reason for it.
After requesting flexible work, the employee's responsibility is to consider the technology and equipment they will need and list their requirements. If the arrangement creates additional costs for the employer, it is at the employer's discretion to invest in the equipment or not.
An employee may be entitled to a one-off set up allowance. This arrangement will be at the employer's discretion and is not guaranteed. The cost of general utilities such as electricity, gas, water and smoke detectors is usually the employee's responsibility.
Health & safety at home
When working from home, an employees' home is considered a workplace. Therefore there is a shared responsibility between the employee and their employer under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to eliminate or minimise any health and safety risks. This means that it should get the same health and safety risk assessment as an office. This includes ergonomics of the workstation setup, fire safety equipment, and first aid kits.
Here are some things employers should consider when supporting the wellbeing of their employees and managing health and safety risks when working from home.
- Think about the things that could harm an employee while working at home
This could be things like their workspace set up, electrical wires from a laptop, or loss of social interaction with the team. Employers should also consider risks and specific protocols for distancing and social isolation. Everyone will be different, so taking the time to think about each member of the team is important.
- Talk to team members about these things and get their view
Team members can help identify the things that may cause harm and assess the level of risk around this. For example, team members may have care responsibilities at home to manage while working and may need to discuss a flexible work arrangement, or some may require more support with setting up their workstation.
- Work together to manage these
It may not be possible to put in place the ideal set up straight away, so employers and employees should work together to identify the best way to manage these in this situation. For example, set up the dining table with a secure makeshift stand to raise height, tape down electrical wires, schedule in daily team video-calls.
- Check-in to see how these are working
Once employers and employees have worked together to identify the things that could harm the employee while working from home and put in place something to manage these, employers should check-in regularly to see how these are going. Employers may want to schedule in a regular catch up to discuss any issues with things like their desk setup or how the employee is feeling being away from the team. Ensure team members know how to report any incidents or concerns.
- Take action if there is an issue or an employee raises concerns
If a team member is having problems or raises a concern, employers should work with them to identify a way to address this. For example, if they are getting back pain from working at their dining table, can they alternate between sitting and standing at the kitchen bench? Or could they take regular exercise/ stretch breaks?
Employers are responsible for talking through and developing policies on how employees should manage their health and safety when working at home.
The employee is responsible for organising a work area that is appropriately set up to ensure that they can work safely. To ensure that this is the case, an employer may request an employee to provide photos of their work location and may also request a health and safety assessment of the workstation.
Employers are responsible for:
- Providing safe equipment for employee’s work
- Providing information to help set up workstations ergonomically
- Making sure the employee keeps in touch with their manager and team members in cases of emergency
- Sharing the same information, training and development opportunities to all employees
Security of information
Employers should talk to their team about how to follow privacy and security requirements for the type/classification of information they are allowed to access when working at home. All security policies that would apply to employees who are working in the office, also apply when employees work remotely from their homes. Employees may need to adjust the work they do or take extra precautions to protect the information, such as physically locking devices and information away if not in use.
Employees should keep all work information safe and secure and avoid using public WiFi networks.
Employees should minimise or eliminate risks by creating a good workstation that includes appropriate ventilation and light and clear path with no cords sticking up or furniture that might cause accidents.
To meet their responsibilities under the Health and Safety Act 2015, employees should:
- Only work from a location that is safe and suitable for working remotely
- Comply with all health and safety requirements
- Do not work during annual leave or sick leave specified on a medical certificate
- Take reasonable steps to keep the organisation’s technology, equipment and information safe and in working order
- Have a suitable workstation, including a desk and office chair
- Ensure the work area is free from distractions or confidentiality issues
- Take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure their safety while working from home. This includes any hazard management and reporting
- Install work equipment correctly and use it in the manner it is intended for
- Take all steps to keep any company equipment or technology safe and without damage
- Make sure lighting is suitable and sufficient
- Manage their time effectively and take appropriate meal and rest breaks, as per the terms of their employment
- Take steps to manage the risks that come with working alone such as scheduling regular meetings and catchups with the team to avoid isolation
- Notify line managers immediately for any sickness or work-related accidents
- Have access to a first aid kit
- Keep well hydrated
- Switch off their work devices at the end of the workday
- Go outdoors and exercise daily, if possible