Home Legal & Insurance Hybrid and homeworking are here to stay: Chris Macwilliam of Clough &...

Hybrid and homeworking are here to stay: Chris Macwilliam of Clough & Willis discusses what firms need to do to protect themselves and their teams

Hybrid and homeworking have been embraced by many and have certainly changed how we all live. Millions have been freed from the daily grind of commuting, but the switch has also been a headache for businesses of all sizes as they learn to adapt – especially when it comes to managing staff and ensuring their working policies are fair and compliant.

The popularity of remote and hybrid working has revolutionised the UK’s working population and it’s here to stay so it’s essential that businesses protect both themselves and their teams every step of the way. It can be a minefield but if they follow a few rules then it can work seamlessly.

The recruitment process

When you take on new team members it is vital you ensure fair recruitment policies are in place. Hybrid working opportunities should be specified in job advertisements and ideally there should be an organisation wide position to ensure consistency with clear information about hybrid working being provided to candidates. Good induction procedures are also important including job descriptions being reviewed before advertisement and making sure you prepare interview questions to asses all applicants’ skills for hybrid work; these include communication, collaboration, and team building. It is also essential that none of the criteria could be classed as discriminatory.

Managing hybrid working requests fairly

Any employee with at least 26 weeks’ service can make a formal flexible working request – this would result in a change to their employment contract if agreed. A disabled employee can make a request for reasonable adjustments from day one so it’s important to appreciate the difference as different rules apply.


There is a set procedure for such requests and an employer must respond appropriately within three months and there are only a few specific grounds for refusing such requests. It’s important not to discriminate as getting it wrong can lead to claims against the employer.

You should always consider the benefits of working from home and hybrid working to see if it’s right for your business. I’d suggest having a written policy in place to ensure transparency and to inform and guide staff. You may think that trial periods may be appropriate so it’s important to agree and document what might happen at the end of the trial period and how it will be reviewed.

People Management

An employer will need to consider how to manage and monitor performance, provide training and development and ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of staff working from home.

Monitoring staff is a balancing act as it must respect the employee’s privacy. A transparent monitoring policy is a good tool including looking at the use of email, checking websites visited and listening to or recording phone calls.

You should agree how and when to communicate with each other and make sure the right tools are available to keep in touch as preventing feelings of loneliness and isolation is important. Online meetings are great but encourage face to face meetings and don’t forget social activities to keep staff feeling connected and motivated. It’s an employer’s responsibility to check how staff are.

Health, Safety and Wellbeing

As I said, employers are responsible for their employees’ health, safety, and wellbeing – even if they are working remotely or from home. A risk assessment must be carried out and employers must also speak with staff to see what support is needed for their physical or mental wellbeing as there may be issues of disability discrimination which come to light and the possible need for reasonable adjustments for disabled employees.

Don’t forget that bullying can occur when an employee works from home – it can come from emails, phone calls, social media etc. The key is to communicate and maintain a duty of care which extends to looking out for signs of domestic abuse and responding appropriately.

Equipment

It is really important to consider what infrastructure staff may need when working from home – most notably equipment and technology. Consider what is needed, such as reliable and secure internet connection, a computer, payment for equipment and repairs, and technical support. The costs soon mount up. Be clear about the rules surrounding the use of company equipment – written policies make life easier.

Insurance

The employer must check with their insurers about any existing cover for hybrid and home workers as it may not extend to either or both. Employees must also make sure they have the permission of any landlord or mortgage company to work from home. They should also check what their home insurance covers and that there are no uninsured risks which could impact what they do when working from home. Finally, the employer’s insurance must cover employee injuries whilst working from home.

Working Hours

Employers need to get this right to avoid breaches of contract or unfair dismissal claims. Any changes to working hours will involve permanent changes to employment contracts which employees should ideally agree to. Following consultation, changes must be documented which means having the correct forms of employment contract and policies in place. My advice is to record in writing every change to an employment contract term.

Salary and Expenses

This can be controversial and dangerous as any amendments will fundamentally change the terms of an employment contract. There should be an open, frank and documented consultation process. It’s not likely to be a problem if, for example, a salary is being increased but what if an employer proposes to cut pay to reflect a switch to home working? Any cut is likely to be controversial and getting it wrong could lead to constructive dismissal claims, so follow a consistent and clear policy.

Data Protection

A written GDPR policy is essential so that both employer and employees are clear about their data protection responsibilities and what to do about breaches. Rules about how files and data are transferred between the office and home must be set out clearly. Employees must know what data they can store on their devices or in paper format and how that data can be kept securely. Also, consider how you deal with data stored on a shared computer at home.

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