Sent your employees home to work? Keep them safe & productive

Ruth Cornish, Amelore

In these extraordinary times the government is advising that as many as possible work from home. Clearly not every job can accommodate this but for the rest preparations need to be made to ensure that staff can do this.

Ruth Cornish is the Founder and Lead HR Consultant of Amelore, gives some timely advice:

Obviously with the situation changing by the day you need to be as flexible as possible whilst making sure you have considered the following whilst your staff ‘temporarily work from home ‘on a permanent basis:

The Working from Home base line

To work from home an employee ideally has a dedicated area and a good internet connection. The employer would normally provide the equipment for the employee.

Health and Safety – Home workers Risk assessment

You retain an obligation to ensure that your employees working from home are doing so without risk of injury or harm. Ask the employee to complete a Homeworkers Risk assessment and include a photo of their workstation. It is the employees responsibility to highlight any issues they are aware of in the risk assessment so the employer can take a view.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is clear that as the control an employer can exercise over an employee is minimal, the employee takes responsibility that they and other members of the household are not endangered by work activities undertaken for you.

Home working and Business Insurance

If you are now running your business from home and have others coming in to your home to work with you, it is a priority for you to speak to your home insurance provider as you have turned your home into a workplace.

Your homeworking employees will be covered under your employer’s liability (EL) insurance. This will cover you should an employee make a claim against you and your business because they have been injured or have fallen ill because of the work they have carried out for you. Its why the home workers risk assessment is important. 

Does working from home affect an employees house insurance?

The main obligation is that they need to tell their home insurer. Doing so will ensure that any future claim is not invalidated. Insurers will always look to avoid paying out for claims if their rules are not followed. In the unlikely event that your employees need to see clients at home though, this may alter the cost of their home insurance cover. With additional people coming to the house, they could be seen as more of an insurance risk and their home insurance costs may increase. Public liability insurance may also be necessary.

Also make sure employees tell their mortgage lender. If they are not using more than one room of their home to work in, there usually isn’t an issue.

How much control does a company have over which home an employee is working from?

Very little. Trust is key here. Working from home is also called working remotely and can be portable. That said in the current climate it is much more likely they will remain at home.

Maintaining structure

It is important that you arrange to regularly check in with your employees using technology like Zoom. Make sure everyone keeps the camera turned on as it helps make the experience feel more real. Arrange team and individual sessions. Use it to update staff and also to train or motivate them. You can share slides and other resources easily.

You may also decide to introduce online systems to manage work flow like Asana or Trello.  Some of our clients are setting up Facebook groups to stay in contact and keep people’s spirits up.

Some of your staff will be very anxious and stressed about what is going on and you need to manage and support that as best you can.  You may have access to an Employee assistance helpline which will can provide additional advice.

What other issues should an employer take into account when asking staff to work from home?

Sickness absence reporting – staff must still follow your existing policy if someone becomes unwell.  Make sure staff realise this and when staff are based at home things can become blurred.

Time recording – If your employees have not opted out of the Working Time Directive you need to make sure they are not working more than a 48 hours week in a 17 week period. You can monitor this by requiring them to complete time sheets using systems like Harvest.

Data protection – Make sure that employees are clear about the importance of data security and confidentiality.

Holiday bookings – Staff won’t want to book holiday during uncertain times but you may not want everyone booking holiday at the same time or the expectation that you will pay it out. So manage this now and be clear about your requirements.

Peacetime

Once we get through the next tough months of ‘Covid-19’ raging war on us all, we will all start to return to normal. Be prepared for the fact that you and/or your employees may want to continue with working flexibly and you can then review and update the contractual arrangements you have in place with staff.  For now be clear with them that the situation is temporary and will be regularly reviewed.