In this blog we talk about the new flexible work arrangements that have emerged as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and how to ensure your business is compliant.

Flexible work arrangements – permanent remote and hybrid working

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, homeworking became the norm for many businesses across the UK. As this was driven by the need to comply with Government advice to work from home if possible, most employers moved to homeworking without any permanent change being made to contracts of employment. When the requirement to work from home was relaxed many businesses did not insist on a full return to the office.

For most this decision was partly in recognition of the benefits to employees and employers of homeworking and partly in line with COVID-19 secure measures to enable continued social distancing and reduced contact where possible.

Hybrid Working Model – What HR professionals need to know

Many employers are now looking to formally move to a hybrid working model. This is essentially allowing employers to work partially from the office and partially from home. This could be in any variation that suits the employer. For some employers, it may be possible to offer all employees the flexibility to work partly on site and partly remotely. Other employers may identify some employees that are required to work fully on site due to the nature of their role, and others that can have more flexibility.

When introducing a hybrid working model, HR professionals need to consider how they can balance allowing employees flexibility and ensuring the businesses needs are met. This may mean introducing minimum hours that need to be spent on site, or specifying the days which each employee is required to added. Equally, it could be complete flexibility, provided the employee’s work is completed effectively.

It is important to be clear as to whether the hybrid model is intended to be temporary, for example, while the employer assesses its needs as we come through the pandemic, or will be a permanent change.

HR professionals also need to consider whether they will offer a relaxation of core hours alongside hybrid working, for example allowing employees to complete their hours any time between 8am and 6pm, or whether hours remain unchanged.

Whatever policy an employer is introducing, it is important to consider how this will impact different groups of employees, and whether this impact can be justified if required. For example, employers must particularly take into account potential discrimination issues related to child care responsibilities or disability if they are imposing general requirements in relation to hours or location of work.

What should employers do to formalise remote and hybrid working?

We set out 6 steps you must take to make sure your business is compliant.

1. Change your employment contracts

You should amend your employment contracts to confirm the new place of work arrangements, the proportion of time the employee can work from home / the office and any circumstances where these arrangements will be reviewed, 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. Employee’s 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.

2. Introduce a remote or hybrid working policy

It’s important that you clearly set out the expectations on employees working permanently or partly from home, from how they should report to their line manager, to the expenses they can claim, to health and safety requirements. A remote or hybrid working policy which can be reviewed and updated regularly is key.

3. Comply with health and safety obligations

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.

4. Comply with data protection obligations

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.

5. Ensure you effectively support and manage employees working remotely

You should review your 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 penalised as a result, for example due to being less visible to their manager. Addressing these issues now will ensure that you are best placed to ensure that remote or hybrid working continues to work for your business as we move forward, and to address any issues that arise quickly.

6. Consider where an employee is permitted to work

A common issue which is arising is employees that wish to work remotely from another country, either temporarily or on a permanent basis. Following Brexit this issue requires careful consideration of the tax, immigration and data protection issues. You should ensure that you are clear that employees should not work remotely from abroad without your specific agreement and should seek advice in this situation to ensure your arrangements are compliant.

If you need help with changing your contracts of employment or introducing a hybrid or remote working policy please contact Tabytha Cunningham or Charlotte Farrell and we will be happy to assist with this.

You can download our full report by entering your details.

To access more content, please enter your details below.

By completing your details and submitting, you are consenting to us sending you relevant legal updates and invitations based on the areas of interest you select. For further details please read our privacy notice.