Hybrid working seems to be high on the agenda for many businesses and HR managers.
Having seen that hybrid or remote working can be successful, many businesses have identified that this new way of working will now be a permanent part of their business for the future.
In this blog we explore what employers should do to ensure that they are compliant if they want to formally introduce hybrid working changes longer term.
Employers need to consider how they will effectively support employees who are permanently working from home. This includes considering key issues like performance management.
There is a need to ensure that those working at home are not penalised and held back from say promotions, because they are less visible to managers. Career progression of hybrid workers should therefore also be considered.
Clarity around expectations is also key; employers need to make it clear how much flexibility will be allowed. For example you should be clear on what proportion of time you will need employees in the office and to what extent they can determine their hours.
There are two key steps in terms of your employee documents.
It’s important that you clearly set out the expectations on employees working permanently or partly from home. This can include how they should report to their line manager, expenses and health and safety requirements.
You should explicitly state the level of flexibility employees are given – for example you might say that anyone can work up to two days a week from home.
If employees want more flexibility, the policy should then confirm that they need to formally request this via a flexible working request.
You should ensure your remote or hybrid policy is reviewed regularly.
If you are agreeing an employee can permanently work from home or work on a hybrid basis, their contract needs to be amended to reflect this.
You should also make the circumstances where these arrangements will be reviewed clear, for example if there are performance concerns or due to business need. Any additional requirements which apply to them when working from home also need to be covered.
Employees’ consent to these changes will usually be required. When amending contracts, you should also ensure that all new contracts issued comply with the requirements of the Good Work Plan which were introduced in April 2020, which requires you to give more information to employees on things like training and paid leave.
There are two important legal obligations employers need to ensure that they comply with.
An employer is responsible, “so far as is reasonably practicable”, for an employee’s welfare, health and safety. This includes where an employee is working at home.
Employers should conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all the work activities carried out by their employees to identify any hazards and assess risks where remote working arrangements are made permanent, and review these regularly.
You should also ensure that employees have the necessary equipment to work safely and effectively both in the office and at home. As a minimum you should ask all employees to complete a risk assessment form to identify any risk factors, and to confirm they are satisfied that they can work from home safely. If this identifies any issues, these should then be discussed with the employee in more detail.
You should ensure that your data protection policies reflect the fact that employees will be permanently working remotely and that appropriate measures are in place to ensure that data is kept secure.
This includes communicating additional requirements that apply to employees working remotely, for example to ensure their home WIFI is secure and where necessary providing additional training to those employees.
You also need to be clear whether employees can work from public locations, such as the library or a café and if so, what additional measures they need to follow to ensure your data is secure.
Whilst there is clear value in working from home, key benefits are also lost such as the ability to connect with others, the availability of support and mental health benefits of regular social contact.
Employers should review their policies in relation to performance management and appraisals to ensure that they reflect remote working. Careful thought needs to be given as to how you can effectively support and communicate with employees who move to permanent remote working and ensure that they are not overlooked as a result, for example due to being less visible to their manager.
You should assess your technology – for example ensuring you have facilities in meeting rooms to allow employees to attend remotely.
Your policies need to be reviewed. They should ensure that promotion opportunities are clearly advertised and made available to all and work load is carefully monitored.
Particularly where the majority of a team will be office based, managers need to ensure those working at home are kept in the loop and not excluded from the team dynamic. Ensuring that regular one to ones and appraisals take place will also become more important.
A common issue we see is employees that wish to work remotely from another country, either temporarily or on a permanent basis. A number of employees took the opportunity to return to their home country during the pandemic and found that this worked for them.
The rise of remote and hybrid working has led many employers to consider whether they can have employees based around the world. Unfortunately, the regulation in this area has not caught up with the times.
Following Brexit this issue requires careful consideration of the tax, immigration and data protection issues. Employers need to consider whether they could be inadvertently caught by employment laws and regulatory requirements in that country.
If the employee would occasionally be required to visit the UK, there are also complex immigration issues. The starting point is that employers should ensure they are clear that employees should not work remotely from abroad without the employer’s specific agreement.
If you want to allow remote working from another country it is important that you seek advice in this situation to ensure your arrangements are compliant.
For further information in relation to the issues we have discussed today, please contact any of the Employment team.
You can also download our helpful guide to hybrid and remote working here:
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