Official Remote Working Guidelines – what employers can and cannot do

Remote working has proved so successful for your business that you have decided to implement it long-term. But you are not quite sure what the remote working guidelines are and how it differs from regular office regulations. Luckily, we are here to help. Find out which guidelines you, as an employer or an employee, should follow and what to avoid if you want to achieve a successful remote working environment.

Official Remote Working Guidelines – what employers can and cannot do

Official remote working guidelines for employers

Firstly, take note that all employees have the legal right to request flexible working. This means that you cannot just give precedence to parents and carers.

When an employee makes a statutory application (in other words, asks if they can work remotely), you must deal with the request in a ‘reasonable manner’. For example, you need to assess the advantages and disadvantages of the application. Then you will need to meet with the employee to discuss the request. Lastly, offer an appeal process. As an employer, you can refuse the application if there is a good business reason to do so.

Secondly, due to the national measures to rising cases of COVID-19 announced on 22 September, employees in England who can work effectively from home should be allowed to do so over the winter. In Scotland, employees should only go into work if it is essential for them to do so. However, this does not apply to public sector employees working in essential services.

Working arrangements

Remote working has made relationships of trust even more important. It is not always possible to monitor employees in the same way you would in a traditional office. That is why it is important to regularly interact with employees and make sure the various working relationships stay strong.

Talk to your employees about how you can improve remote working guidelines and arrangements. Continually review which roles and tasks can be done remotely and how the process can be improved. Make sure that any arrangements have been put to paper and are official. This will make it clear to everyone involved what is expected of them.

What to include in working agreements and remote working guidelines:

  • working hours
  • communication channels
  • how to maintain a work-life balance – for example when to take breaks and have lunch
  • rules and regulations for the use of company property and systems
  • Performance assessments and monitoring
  • Contact persons in case of problems and challenges

Take note that employees who are working remotely should be paid the same rates if they work the same hours. Remind employees that the same company rules and regulations apply to remote working. If any of these need to be amended, you must notify the employees and do so in an official manner.

Working hours cannot exceed more than an average of 48 hours a week. The only exceptions are when employees agree to work more hours or do a job that is not covered by the law on working hours (such as emergency workers).

Be sensitive and flexible if an employee needs to take care of children, an elderly relative or someone who is ill. Negotiate different working hours, flexible deadlines, or different targets.

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Health, Safety, and Insurance

As an employer, you are legally responsible for the health and safety of all your remote workers. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you may not be able to conduct the usual health and safety risk assessments at your employees’ homes. Despite this, you still need to check that:

  • employees feel that their work can be done safely at home
  • they have the right equipment for a safe working environment
  • managers regularly contact employees to make sure they do not feel isolated and know that there is help and support available.

Also remind employees to check that their home insurer, mortgage provider or landlord have no issues with them working from home.

Additionally, check that you have the appropriate insurance cover for employees who work remotely. This should include statutory employer’s liability insurance and insurance for any equipment or materials provided to the employee. Ensure that the insurance covers third-party claims.

Equipment and Technology

Employees should be provided with all the relevant equipment and technology they need to work remotely. Discuss what the employee will need and agree on what you will be providing and provide help to set everything up.

If remote working is not something your company has done before, you will need to regularly assess whether your systems and processes are working. Talk to employees about their experience and adjust and improve as needed. Thus, it is important to look closely at your IT department. Check whether the systems are suitable for the required number of remote workers. Can the IT department provide enough support? Also, consider the extra security needed to avoid data theft or loss.

Also consider how you will get extra equipment like stationery, files or product samples to employees. Will it be delivered or collected?

Keeping track of employees

Employers must keep records of staff and contractors’ working patterns for a period of 21 days, per amendments to the Test and Trace guidance. The introduction of financial penalties came into force on 18 September.

What employees need to be aware of

The best way to make your new working arrangement successful is to follow the remote working guidelines provided to you by your employers. If you are unsure about something, ask for clarification before you get into trouble or it causes problems.

Take note that a safe working environment is also the responsibility of the employee. Keep in regular contact with your manager and inform them of any health and safety risks. Let them know if any remote working guidelines or arrangements are not working and propose changes. Do not be hesitant to ask for additional equipment or software if you need it to perform your duties.

If you feel stressed, isolated or without adequate support, ask your manager for help.

To ensure you stay focused during working hours, take regular breaks, and do not make a habit of continuing to work after working hours. Keep your life-work balance by relaxing, enjoying your hobbies and spending time with family and friends.

Most importantly, take note that if you do not perform your duties to standard or according to your job contract, you can be eligible for disciplinary action and in severe cases, dismissal.

In conclusion, remote working can also be successful if companies and employees continue to adapt, successfully communicate, and approach the process with a positive attitude. Clear, helpful, and effective remote working guidelines will be key to this.

For more benefits of remote working and tools to make your business and employees thrive, visit our blog.

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