Employers are being warned to ensure their policies and procedures are able to properly protect the business for those who engage staff who work from home.
Statistics for 2016 from the TUC show that nearly a quarter of a million more people work from home than a decade ago.
Many businesses offer flexible working which includes the option to work from home, and Claire Haworth, solicitor in the Employment team at Napthens in Preston, warns both employers and employees must know their responsibilities.
She explained: “Everything from hours of work, to salary, equipment and health and safety should be properly covered in a business’s contracts, policies and procedures.
“An employer, for instance, must be clear about the expectations regarding hours of work and what will happen if performance in this regard becomes an issue.
“It is important that a staff member working from home is not on less favourable terms than employees in an office, to avoid any potential discrimination issues as they may be working from home because this is a reasonable adjustment or they have made a flexible working request
“Similarly, just because someone is not working in an office with co-workers everyday, does not mean that health and safety is not an issue. In fact, an employer has an obligation to look after, as far as is practicable, the health and safety of home workers. This would include an appropriate risk assessment of where they are intending to work.
“Other key areas for businesses to be aware of when it comes to home working is ensuring policies appropriately cover the use of and monitoring of equipment; and confidentiality – expectations should be very clear in relation to passwords and secure filing of any confidential documents and personal data.
“Employers may also want to reserve the right to enter an employee’s property, for instance to install, maintain or service equipment and conduct any appropriate risk assessments
“Finally, it’s important for a business to consider what they would do if a staff member is required to change back to being office based. This may be a contractual variation if the employee has notoriously and routinely been working from home for some time, and needs to be considered fully.”