There are several reasons why an employee may be working from home, but in this article, we ignore the reasons behind home workers and focus on things an employer must consider to ensure legal compliance and business effectiveness of the arrangements.
A home worker must have a workspace which is fit for purpose. Whether the role involves a computer at a desk or a telephone, paper and pen, the employer must make sure that the employee has adequate seating, lighting and desk space as required. If the employee has stock or samples to store or move around, the employer must again ensure that this is done safely and with no risk to the employee or other people at the house.
Although the duty of care falls to the employer, there is an obligation on employees to play their role in establishing and maintaining a healthy and safe working environment. They must ensure that they make use of facilities provided and inform their employer if there are any changes in circumstance.
As well as the physical environment, employees must ensure that they psychological environment is appropriate for work. An employee must be able to fully focus on the job while they are working. They should not have young children or large dogs running around or a constant flow of callers to the house. Employees are expected to be undistracted and to dedicate themselves 100% to their job, during their working hours.
Communication is essential to making a home worker relationship effective. Whether one member of the team or the whole team works remotely, it is vital that regular communication channels are established and maintained. Ideas include weekly team calls, group emails, newsletters and monthly meetings. The exact contents of these will vary depending on the nature and culture of the business, the type of work being done from home and the personality of the home workers themselves. The purpose of the communication is twofold: to ensure that the employee is engaged with the business and therefore wants to contribute to it’s success; and that the work delivered is what is expected and required by the business. Home working can be isolating and good communication will lead to better outcomes.
Other considerations include the type of work being done. Is the home worker merely based at home for contractual reasons and then travelling around to effectively do their role? Or does the role require the employee to be sat at a desk all day working? What support and training does the employee need? What additional tools do they require to do their role? If they need a car, is one provided in the same way as it would be for an office based employee? If they need internet access or a dedicated phone line, how does this get paid for?
Employment legislation applies equally to home workers as it does to office based workers and compliance with Acts such as the Equality Act, The Working Time Directive and Part-time Workers Regulations all still apply. Does the home-worker have the same terms and conditions of employment? Are their pay and benefits the same as they would be if they were based in the office? Is there someone doing the same job as them based in the office and are the two employees treated equally. The only contractual difference should be their location.
When considering using home workers, consider their home as a satellite office. You don’t have the right to turn up unannounced, but they are employees and should be managed in a fair and equitable way, helping the business to achieve it’s goals.
For further information and support on employing home based workers, please contact DOHR on 01923 504100 or at www.dohr.co.uk