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Company moving to permanent blend of home-office work

Hello all, 

I would love to gather some thoughts from the HR community on something. I am the HR manager of a small (around 70 employees) technology company. We, like everyone else, were forced into home-working last year. We are now (again, like many others) going to formally move towards a type of working pattern where we offer a blend of home and office work. Our thought was to suggest 2 days in the office and 3 at home - but this could be flexible. 

My thought is around the compliance aspect. If we offer this working arrangement in an 'official' sense, what are our liabilities? As I understand, we would need to consider the health and safety aspect (i.e. risk assessments, safe working at home etc.), employer's liability insurance (as in is home-working covered), and employees own home insurance (I think). Are there any other big compliance considerations here I have missed? For example, do we run the risk of employees considering their home their place of work and claiming millage to travel to the office?

There is another element to this. It is the contractual side. All contracts currently state the office as the place of work. My current idea is to get the managers/HR to consult with their teams and agree the right blend of home and office work (which would vary, of course) and then issue them with a 'homeworking agreement' for them to sign etc. Does this sound sensible (not to mention compliant)? The idea is to be flexible, trusting and open in how we work, but I have started to realise that for some people we would nee more certainty (hence the suggestion to record it all in the agreement). 

Any thoughts on this would be most gratefully received! 

Thanks, 

Chris 

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  • Since posting this - I have got some good legal advice. I've been informed that we could incorporate the agreement to work from home into a homeworking policy. This would state that employees may work from home, as agreed with their manager (on a periodic basis). This would not form a change to their contracts though. Perhaps best not to start start forming prescriptive agreements?
  • Johanna

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    16 Feb, 2021 14:18

    Hi Chris, the Gov advice is still to work from home if you can, but I understand you're planning for later in the year. Hybrid working seems to be a model many employers will be considering for the future. Here's a link to the last webinar recording the CIPD made on the subject, albeit back in Autumn last year but many of the principles will still be relevant. www.cipd.co.uk/.../inclusive-cultures-facilitating-hybrid-working-24-september-2020 also as a CIPD member you do have access to the 24/7 legal helpline if you want to top up any legal advice you've received

  • Hi Chris

    On your point about claiming expenses for travel to the office, if you were to allow it you would have to pay them via the payroll as this would be a taxable benefit. Even if the staff have contracts saying they are home based, the office will still be a regular place of work. If anyone tries to argue that they should get their travel expenses paid, I would point out that they will be better off by not having to commute every day but ultimately, you just don't have to do this as long as the office remains a regular place of work.
  • Hi Chris,

    This is exactly what our company has been looking into recently.. Regarding expenses, I was advised by HMRC that as both bases of work are permanent that staff will be unable to claim for mileage to or from the office. If they go elsewhere for work purposes, they will be able to claim the mileage from the lesser miles of the two (ie they cant claim if they live far from the office).

    With regards to contracts, we have re-written our home working policy, completed DSE paperwork for all staff and have a clause within our contract that states we can ask them to work anywhere that we deem reasonable (home is reasonable). We have a couple on older contracts that don't include this clause so we will need to consult with them on this. My understanding is that if you don't have a clause that allows you to make changed to their contract then you will need to consult. If they refuse the change it could be deemed as a redundant position and your WFH set up would be the reasonable alternative that you would be able to offer them..
  • Reading your statement there seems to be a nice bit of flexibility but you need to be careful not to give the impression of favouring any one person or group. Do you have to do this before the future is more certain? Maybe have the temporary arrangement until it's clear what's best for the business.
  • In reply to Chris:

    This is a much bigger issue than the way you are approaching it.

    How are you going to ensure good communication, teamwork and good work?
    You may want 2 or 3 but they can still make flexible working requests.
    What about those who want to work in the office for whatever good reasons.
    How are you going to monitor well-being?

    I am sure there are other big issues.

    I would not rush into anything until you have addressed these matters
  • In reply to Peter Stanway:

    Agreed, this is a much bigger issue than the legalities / contract. It raises a whole new management model.

    Another issue rarely discussed is security - both physical and IT based - of home working. There have been a few discussions recently on how the current homeworking may be compromising GDPR, let alone commercially sensitive information, and the current view is that this is temporary and in the middle of exceptional circumstances.
    If / when homeworking becomes a standard part of doing business, how will your organisation address security? In previous organisations where i have worked, we insisted on things like working from a lockable room not used by other family members, lockable storage, IT equipment not used for any other purpose / family member etc. Not easy if the dining room table is the new office.
  • In reply to Anne:

    I did not want to go there with GDPR!

    I suppose I can lock my office (it is outside) but the idea of a separate locked room is IMHO a bit OTT for all but a few. I am trying not to think about what my wife would have said to a separate locked room!
  • In reply to Johanna:

    Hi Johanna, that's great. Thanks for sharing the link - that's very useful!
  • In reply to Elizabeth:

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks for your thoughts on this, it is very useful. Much appreciated
  • In reply to Becci Lloyd:

    Hi Becci,

    Thanks for your response. That is all very useful to know. How far along the process are you?
  • In reply to George:

    Hi George,

    Thanks for the response. I take your point about not giving the wrong impression. We have a vision of how we want to operate, but yes, it will be a case of trialling different arrangements and seeing what works best. We have been very open about this and it has all been received positively. I mean, we are a very small tech company. I have previously worked in large corporate entities, where we would never take such a relaxed approach. But you do raise a good point, so thanks for the input.
  • In reply to Peter Stanway:

    In fairness you don't know how I am approaching it. I am not saying there aren't other considerations, of course there are - but I was interested in opinions around the compliance aspect.
  • In reply to Chris:

    Hi Chris, We are a City Centre local authority and are currently planning to individually consult with our employees who are to be classed as either a Hybrid or Home Based Worker (we have Fixed Base & Mobile workers too who will not be affected) and ask them to vary their terms and conditions so that the new work base changes from the 'office' to 'home'. We have been grappling with this since last summer and it's a really complicated and complex activity, so obtaining sound legal and tax advice is imperative as well as ensuring compliance with H&S and GDPR requirements. We are also doing a lot of pre-prep work with engaging the workforce and getting them used to the idea, as we want to ensure that managers encourage their employees in the right direction, plus our property colleagues are having to redesign our workspaces so they are less about 'bums on seats' but collaboration. There's a lot more work we need to do before we even get to the stage of issuing contracts and things seem to change daily, so flexibility and willingness to adapt our previously held ideas and plans is really important.
  • Johanna

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    18 Feb, 2021 11:25

    In reply to Chris:

    I find the CIPD webinar recordings generally are really helpful listening just to have on in the background when you are working (from home in my case) - the whole covid series has been brilliant! (Biased as a CIPD member of staff but they really are good!)