Due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may have found yourself operating your business from home for the first time. Reports of major companies planning to embrace working from home on a more permanent basis have started a conversation about what our working patterns might look like in the future.
If your employees are going to be working from home on a more long-term or even permanent basis, it’s worth assessing your work from home policy and if you need to update this. We explain what a work from home policy is and what it should include, as well as the insurance, legal and cyber security considerations you need to be aware of.
What is a work from home policy?
Your business’ work from home policy is likely to outline which employees are eligible to work remotely (for example those that can competently undertake the work on their own with minimal supervision and jobs that can be done safely by one person; or that by their nature can be done from home), what responsibilities they will have and your expectations of their performance.
Having a work from home policy in place is beneficial for business continuity, and allows employees to continue working from home where possible if needed.
What should your work from home policy include?
Having an effective work from home policy will ensure you’ve covered all the legal and insurance ground, and will also help you to efficiently manage your employees remotely.
You may wish to consider:
- Which of your employees will be working from home?
- Which tasks can be completed remotely?
- How often will the employee be working from home? Will it be full-time, or only on certain days?
- How long will the employee be working from home for?
- What equipment or software is needed to work from home effectively? For example, laptops, phones, internet connections and business software.
What are the benefits of working from home?
Whilst many have now become familiar with the world of working from the comfort of home due to the pandemic, remote working is favoured by some employees as part of flexible working. Some of the benefits include managing a work-life balance, ditching the commute and greater flexibility. If you're struggling to focus, First Voice has shared top tips for staying productive whilst working from home.
Working from home can also be an option on a temporary basis, to help accommodate childcare needs or medical emergencies. After 26 weeks of service, employees may submit a flexible working request.
How can you manage technology and cyber security?
One crucial element of effectively managing a remote team is having the right communication and collaborative tools in place. Many small businesses started to utilise digital tools such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams to stay in touch when the pandemic began.
Not only are these platforms excellent for productivity, but they’re also great for staying in touch. Remote workers can often feel isolated, so be sure to encourage regular communication through these tools.
If employees will be handling company data remotely or accessing systems with sensitive information, you should be aware of any cyber security or data protection risks to your business. Having a cyber security policy in place and training your staff in best practices can help you to mitigate any risks.
Our guide to working from home shares tips for cyber security, as well as advice for adjusting to new routines.
Does your insurance cover employees working from home?
When thousands of employees made the transition to temporarily work from home, this was largely covered by employees’ home insurance. Employers must consider if their insurance covers them for an employee working from home and using business equipment. You should check your business insurance policy to see if it covers employees who work from home.
You may need to ask your employees to check the conditions of their existing home insurance policies to see if they need to let their insurer know about any long-term working from home arrangements, or if they need to change their policy.
Employer’s Liability insurance is a legal requirement if you have one or more employees, and provides cover for your legal liability should any employee be injured or ill as a result of working for your business from home. This is required even if you have temporary or casual staff.
If your employees are continuing to work from home, Employer’s Liability insurance may cover you if an employee makes a claim against you and your business, for example if they have been injured or fall ill due to work carried out.
What are your legal responsibilities for remote workers?
One of the main legal responsibilities for home workers is managing health and safety. You have a legal responsibility for the health and safety of your staff under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – and this includes if they are working remotely.
An at-home risk assessment should be carried out by the employee and returned to you. The FSB Legal Hub has resources and guidance for carrying out risk assessments for those working from home, including a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) checklist.
You should ask your employees to make you aware of any health and safety risks, as well as if they need to change homeworking arrangements. Support your employees when they are working remotely by making sure they’re establishing a healthy work-life balance, are motivated to work alone and can manage their time effectively.
As an employer, you should also do what you can to support the wellbeing of your employees who are working from home, as part of your duty of care. Those who are continuing to work from home may feel more isolated. There are a wealth of toolkits and resources available on our wellbeing hub to help you support employee wellbeing.
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