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When it comes to WFH, are your employment policies up to scratch?

Review and update your flexible and agile working policies and procedures for your employees to prepare for the ‘new normal’ in 2021.

With multiple lockdowns and nationwide messages to ‘stay at home, save lives’ over 2020, and now into 2021, in response to the global pandemic, the way we work (and where we work) has quickly changed.

Following the first national lockdown announcement in March 2020, employers had to respond quickly to get workforces who were able to work from home up and running remotely. Now, with the vaccine programme up and running and thoughts turning to planning for the year ahead, one of the many important issues for employers to consider will be how agile/remote and flexible working will be implemented in a post-pandemic world.

We’re unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic working arrangements with most employees seeking to work from home one or two days per week post-pandemic in a hybrid working arrangement. It is therefore a good idea for employers to review and update their flexible and remote working policies and any internal procedures. If you don’t have a written policy and procedure, get one.

When drafting or updating your flexible and agile or remote working policies and procedures, employers should consider practical issues such as:

  • Whether core working hours are required.
  • Providing guidance on the right to make a statutory flexible working request and a procedure for how to do so.
  • Whether the employer will pay home-working expenses relating to equipment or utilities such as: a desktop screen, separate keyboard, cables and connections and phone and internet connectivity.
  • Whether the organisation’s insurance policy permits staff to work from home and whether it covers home-working expenses.
  • How to undertake health and safety risk assessments for remote workstations.
  • Whether to include rules on working remotely abroad.
  • Reinforcing the need to maintain confidentiality of company and client information and compliance with data protection legislation when working remotely.

It will no doubt now be harder for employers to refuse employees’ statutory flexible working requests under the guise of the burden of additional costs, detrimental impact on quality and performance or inability to meet customer demand, with staff having successfully worked from home for the majority of 2020 and the first part of 2021.

It still will be possible to reject a flexible working request but the grounds for refusal will need to be properly considered and reasonable in light of how we have worked through the current pandemic.

Employers will therefore need to think carefully (and take legal advice where necessary) to ensure flexible working requests are properly considered and dealt with and to avoid possible disputes and/or discrimination.

Should you wish to discuss implementing policies and procedures around flexible and agile working or dealing with flexible working requests, please do not hesitate to contact Céline Winham, Neil Johnston or Leanne Good in our Employment team.

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