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Latest Guidance: Should My Employees be Working from Home? – Guest blog by Lamb Brooks

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Yesterday’s announcement from the Prime Minister saw a U-turn away from the government’s previous message of ‘getting office workers back into the workplace’ by announcing that those who can work from home, should return to doing so.

For some workplaces, the decision had already been made that employees would continue to work remotely with no fixed plans to return to the office until 2021. But for other businesses who have been through the process of welcoming back their staff, made the necessary Covid-safe adjustments and now face sending their employees home once again – it is another logistical headache.

The plus side is that workplaces have been through this before, are hopefully more prepared and can now face the challenge with some lessons learnt from the Spring lockdown.

What is Right for My Business?

“We are once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go to work in a Covid-secure workplace.”

The guidance leaves room for interpretation and businesses will need to weigh up several factors to determine what the best approach is for their both their business and their employee’s needs.

All businesses are different, however some areas to consider when deciding how you can adapt include:

  • First and foremost, can the role be carried out remotely?
  • Do you have the IT support and equipment needed to support home working? Do you still have resources from previous home-working? Do you require more or better equipment?
  • Do you have strong lines of communication?
  • Is your workplace Covid-secure for those who continue to work in the office? Do you need to reassess or put additional measures in place?
  • How will staff be monitored, motivated, trained and supported remotely? Keeping in mind that these measures may be in place for at least 6 months.
  • Is it feasible to adopt a blend of home and workplace working?
  • How will your support your employee’s mental health?
  • Do you need to be mindful of any employees who are in the high-risk category?
  • Do you need to consider employees who may have difficulty working from home due to personal circumstances or lack of utilities such as wifi, laptops or good phone signal?
  • How will home working impact on your profit?
  • Have you updated and circulated your working from home policy

Remember Your Obligations as an Employer

As we clearly see cases and infection rates rising, employers must be doing all they can to protect their workforce and their business.

Covid-Secure

HR teams or managing directors should be checking their office policies and guidelines and making sure they are regularly reviewed and amended in line with the latest government guidance. Your Covid-19 risk assessment should be reviewed regularly and any changes to your policies should be communicated clearly.

This includes the provision of PPE, hand washing facilities and social distancing measures.

Mental Health

All employers have a duty to look after the welfare of employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and to assess and manage risk to their staff under Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This includes assessing and minimising the risk of stress-related illness at work.

Boris even highlighted the importance of mental health and wellbeing for staff in his speech. Whether they are working alone from home or continuing to work in the workplace, it is prevalent that managers and supervisors are taking steps to ensure their staff are supported in this respect.

Discrimination

Employers should also ensure that they are not discriminating against employees when making decisions about working patterns or flexible working and ensure that reasonable adjustments are being considered if necessary.

Getting Legal Support

As many companies across the UK scramble to reverse their ‘back to the office’ plans and make yet more changes to their working procedures, it is imperative to get the right legal advice to avoid making damaging mistakes.

If you are unsure on the procedures you should be following, have HR or employment law questions or would like to outsource the re-writing of your contracts and handbooks, please get in touch with our knowledgeable Employment Law Team.

Call us on 01256 844888, email enquiries@lambbrooks.com or speak to our online chat assistant at any time of day.

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