It seems like so long ago since the Prime Minister’s first lockdown announcement back in March, and since then millions have adapted to working from home, joining many who have done this for some time.
This is likely to continue for the foreseeable for many, whilst we await the easing of restrictions and the rollout of the long-awaited vaccine – but whilst some businesses will be itching to have all of their staff back ‘on-site’ – others will continue with this ‘new normal’ as their standard way of working.
Some businesses have embraced new technologies and different ways of operating. Home-working has allowed for flexibility and better work life balance for employees; the result being employees have excelled in their work and output, but for others it has resulted in a constant headache, in terms of reduced productivity and employees being obstructive to a return to the office.
Whether businesses are adapting temporarily to manage immediate issues caused by the pandemic, or looking forward towards the ‘new normal’, working from home throws up a number of legal implications including:
Increasing flexible working requests from employees
Employers should ensure their flexible working policies are up to date and fit for purpose.
Employers should be sensitive towards childcare issues and, where possible, accommodate reasonable requests i.e. changes of hours. A failure to permit part-time working can potentially give rise to claims for indirect sex discrimination, where the reason for the request is due to childcare responsibilities.
Businesses may not have had the time to carry out security checks and ensure the correct systems are in place to protect sensitive data.
Duty of care
Employers have a legal duty to ensure the health and safety of all employees, including those working from home. Employers that are putting in place longer-term home working arrangements should now establish a system for carrying out regular risk assessments to ensure employees can work safely from home. This may mean making adjustments, particularly for employees with a disability.
It is imperative for employers to maintain regular communication with all their staff. This is important for managing expectations on both sides and for maintaining reporting lines between managers and their teams.
Whether you are an employer or employee, Farleys’ employment law specialists can advice on any legal matters that arise as a result of the pandemic. Get in touch with us today on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry by email.