Employees who have been working for the same company for at least six months have the right to request flexible working. Flexible working encompasses working from home or elsewhere, job sharing, part-time, compressed hours, flexitime, annualised or staggered hours and phased retirement.
Employees must write a letter (or fill out a form) to their employer requesting flexible work. Employers should deal with the request reasonably, which means assessing the pros and cons of the request, discussing with the employee about it and offering an appeal process in case of rejection (it is not a statutory right, but encouraged).
Employers must respond within three months. If they approve of the requested flexible work arrangement, they should do so in writing. They should make changes to the terms and conditions in the employee's contract and start the new arrangement within 28 days. Employers can only refuse the request if the set up impacts the business operations, such as quality of work, extra costs, impact on meeting customer demands, and should explain that in writing.
Companies have the same legal duty of care for remote employees as they do for office employees. Moreover, employers have the following obligations:
Employees working from home due to the pandemic and not out of personal preference can claim tax relief on expenses. These include work equipment to create a home office, heating, metered water bills, home contents insurance, business calls or a new broadband connection. Expenses not impacted by working from home, such as rent or a mortgage, cannot be claimed.
Employees can claim £6 a week (from 6 April 2020), which does not require proof of extra costs or an exact amount if they have receipts and bills to prove the additional cost. The tax relief is based on the tax rate of the employee.
Employers are legally responsible for ensuring that employees work in a safe environment, even when doing so from home. Regardless of the location, employers must carry out technology, data security and confidentiality risk assessments. They should also identify any health and safety risks and take steps to reduce them.
Employer's health and safety duty include:
Employees must also take care of their health and safety when working from home, especially when handling loads, using any form of equipment from work, and working for long periods in front of a computer screen. Employees should keep in touch with their managers and bring up any physical, mental or health and safety risks.
Companies are responsible for ensuring they have sufficient data security and protection practices for homeworking to protect the company's data and personal information from being attacked or breached. The same level of security applied at an office should be applied in a remote environment. Companies should provide employees with a company computer if an employee's personal computer imposes information confidentiality risks. Employees must also ensure confidentiality of the information and prevent potential threats, such as leaving the equipment unattended where it could be stolen.
Best practices to ensure security include:
Employers must take all reasonable steps to ensure the employee's workstation is correctly set up, safe, comfortable and easy to use to reduce potential injuries as indicated in the health and safety measures. In turn, employees must care for their health and safety and follow any reasonable policies or directions their employer gives them.
An appropriate workstation will include the following:
Employers should check up and reassess work conditions regularly. Additional steps may be required if the employee reposts pains, discomfort, mental impact, lack of breaks caused by the current setup.
Employees working from home must enjoy the same individual and collective rights as all employees, including benefits. Employers must also ensure they offer training, development and promotion opportunities to remote work employees. If they do not, they may be seen as in breach of contract or might see employees raise discrimination allegations. Employers must also ensure that employees don't work beyond the maximum daily working hours.
Employers who would like to monitor employees' remote work (use of email or website visits) must first obtain the employee's and any representative's consent. Employers must inform employees if they are monitoring them and give a reason for it. Moreover, employers should put in place a clear, written policy and procedure.
Recommendations for employees working from home: