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Remote Work in United Kingdom

General Guidelines

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.

Working from Home Policy in United Kingdom

Companies have the same legal duty of care for remote employees as they do for office employees. Moreover, employers have the following obligations:

  • Discuss and agree on employee needs such as necessary equipment and technology for work, and setup support
  • Provide employees with the essential equipment to perform work. There is no legal obligation to provide additional from the required equipment, although it's highly recommended
  • Keep in touch with all employees to ensure they are mentally well while working away from others and supervise and support them
  • Provide employees with a work environment that meets the health and safety standards and provide a risk assessment of the workspace and its surroundings, including ventilation, lighting and hazards
  • Ensure employees don't exceed the maximum working hours and take their statutory breaks throughout the day
  • Have an Employer Liability Insurance that covers employees working from home
  • Outline what expenses employees can and cannot claim back as a result of working from home. Reimbursing employees for expenses, such as utility bills, is at the employer's discretion
  • Adhere to GDPR and confidentiality rules, regardless of where work is performed

Covid-19

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.

Health & safety at home

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:

  • Keeping records of the risk assessments and review them periodically
  • Provide employees with safe and suitable equipment for work
  • Provide eye tests upon request to all employees working in front of a computer screen
  • Ensure employees working from home are covered with the statutory employer's liability insurance
  • Keep in touch with employees to recognize signs of stress, isolation and burnout from working from home

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.

Security of information

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:

  • provide employees with antivirus and VPN access
  • train them of possible risks and attacks
  • write a policy about data security for those working from home
  • review access to internal systems
  • ensure the security of employees own devices
  • updated anti-malware and have virus protection across all devices

Workplace Guidelines in United Kingdom

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:

  • Right level of illumination - natural and artificial light sources should not create glare on the computer
  • Sufficient lighting level for visual tasks to be completed without eye strain
  • The right level of ventilation and thermal comfort
  • Unobstructed exit path in case of emergencies, including electrical cords, uneven carpet, clutter
  • Suitable storage for documents
  • Secure premises and a lockable cupboard or desk

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.

Working conditions

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:

  • Take appropriate breaks every 30 minutes to ensure repetitive actions are not continued for long periods and stand up at least once per hour
  • Stretch and change posture often, and if possible, alternate activities
  • Check for a comfortable posture
  • Don't do any lifting, pushing, or carrying type tasks beyond your physical capacity
  • Keep wrists in a neutral (straight) position—not bent up or down
  • Sitting posture is upright or slightly reclined, maintaining slight hollow in the lower back
  • Establish boundaries around work hours
  • Schedule regular meetings and catch-ups with the team
  • Go outdoors and exercise daily, if possible

This page was last updated on 
22 September, 2022,
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