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Remote working - the new normal

24 July 2020

As a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, some employees were required to work remotely from their homes. Some have now found “the grass is greener on the other side” and want these arrangements to continue.

Working remotely can have great benefits for an employee’s well-being, work/life balance and the employment relationship in general. However, it also comes with some important considerations.

If employers are allowing employees to work remotely (even only for a few days per week), the employer should have a policy which sets out guidelines the employee must follow. If these guidelines are not followed, it could become a disciplinary issue later down the track.

The main things we think should typically be included in a Remote Working policy are:

1. Health and Safety 

An employer must consider its obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and its duty to ensure employee safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. These obligations would ideally be set out in a Health and Safety policy, and referred to in the Remote Working policy. It is important these obligations are not just followed in the workplace, but when employees are working remotely as well.

Employers also need to ensure employees are taking adequate rest and meal breaks (as if they were in the workplace), to ensure they are meeting their obligations under the Employment Relations Act 2000.

2. Injuries

If an employee is working remotely and is injured, this could be considered a work-related injury.

Even when employees are working remotely, they must still report to their manager any injuries, accidents or near-misses that take place.

The same applies if employees file claims with any accident compensation body. Just like in the workplace, employees must provide a copy of the application form and any other relevant information or documents.

If the employee is not following the guidelines in the Remote Working policy when the injury occurs, this may be a disciplinary issue.

3. Sensitive Information/Data Security

If employees are working remotely, they will be responsible for taking steps to ensure the security and confidentiality of the employer’s information which they take out of the office, or which is provided or sent to them while they are working remotely.

4. Expenses/Equipment

If employees are requesting to work remotely, employers are under no obligation to pay their expenses or purchase equipment for them.

However, if the employer prefers its employees to work remotely, they should consider paying some kind of allowance to cover the incidental costs of power, internet and/or equipment required to complete their duties.

5. Variation to Employment

Employers should reiterate to employees that working remotely is a privilege and not a right, and therefore the terms of their employment will not change (unless there is written agreement by both parties).

If you are wanting help or advice with drafting a Remote Working Policy, feel free to get in contact with one of our employment team members.

 

Emma Thomson Learmonth is a Solicitor in the Commercial Disputes & Employment Team at Norris Ward McKinnon. You can contact Emma here.