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Working from home: what are my rights as an employee?

As the UK continues its efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, widespread working from home has become the new normal for many.

So, what are your legal rights as a homeworker, even if it’s only a temporary arrangement? And what obligations does your employer have towards you?

Wards Solicitors’ highly experienced team of Employment lawyers can guide you through everything you need to know and explain what you should do if your employer isn’t coming up to scratch.

What are my employer’s responsibilities while I’m home working?

In every situation, employers have a legal duty to take all reasonable and necessary steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees, including providing and maintaining a safe system of work, whether they work in the office or from home.

Should I have a home health and safety risk assessment?

Normally, yes, but at the moment it is may be neither safe nor sensible for your employer to physically carry out a risk assessment at your home.

However, there are still things they should do under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure that all known risks are mitigated.

For example, they could ask you to carry out a self-assessment of your working set-up at home and report back so they can address any issues you pinpoint. Your employer should also regularly check that:

  • You have the right equipment to work safely and necessary improvements, like headsets or stationery, can be sent to you if needed;
  • The tasks you are being asked to do from home are reasonable and can be carried out safely;
  • You are kept updated on the importance of things like good posture at the computer, taking regular breaks and getting fresh air;
  • You do not feel isolated and that managers keep in regular contact.

How do I know what’s expected from me now I’m working from home?

Your manager should be crystal clear on this.

Switching from office to home working can be challenging so setting out exactly how you are expected to work under this new arrangement is critical.

This should include:

  • When you are expected to be available for work;
  • How to book holidays or report sickness absence;
  • How your managers will keep in touch;
  • How to manage the work-life balance – for example, reporting back if you are finding it hard to switch off at the end of the day;
  • The rules around storing information and data protection;
  • Who to contact if you are having problems;
  • What training and support will be provided;
  • How you can keep in touch with the rest of the team and your manager.

Are there different rules for pregnant homeworkers?

Pregnant employees may be at an increased risk of coronavirus and so extra caution should be taken to ensure their safety. This might include avoiding travel on public transport and working from home where possible.

As a result, your employer should make every effort to enable you to do so and this includes temporarily adjusting your working conditions to allow you to work from home.

I am disabled – what should my employer be doing for me?

A survey in June 2020 by the public service union UNISON found that 53 per cent of disabled people working from home during the pandemic said their employer had made no adjustments to support them.

It’s important to remember that your employer is legally bound to carry out a risk assessment, even if that is done remotely and required to make any reasonable adjustments if you experience any disadvantage.

This might include providing you, at your employer’s expense, with whatever aids you might need to do your job or enabling you to take your office equipment home with you.

Seek advice

Talking to your employer directly is usually the best place to start if you feel that home working is adversely affecting your wellbeing in any way.

If you feel unsure about how your legal rights when it comes to home working, or want help challenging a decision at work, please contact Wards Solicitors’ specialist employment lawyers, Joe Nicholls or Matthew Warren.

Contact Joe.Nicholls@wards.uk.com or Matthew.Warren@wards.uk.com telephone 0117 929 2811

Posted by: Matthew Warren

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