UK Government guidance

Employers should keep up to date with the latest guidance relating to remote and hybrid working:

Employers can also refer to information available on the CIPD websites for Asia, Middle East and Ireland.

Hybrid and remote working FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions about hybrid and remote working

Home or remote working has many practical and legal implications. It is advisable to have policies to outline the organisation’s approach.

The following should be addressed:

Supervision

Check the policy addresses how to supervise, communicate and monitor the performance of staff. Provide guidance for line managers as reporting in at regular times can help combat isolation and stress. Managers should be aware that different motivation techniques may be needed for home workers.

Equipment

Think about employee requirements such as laptops, stationery, photocopying, printing etc. How will this be funded, installed and insured and who is permitted to access it? Employers might need to install video conferencing software so that meetings can occur remotely. Staff must easily be able to communicate with the employer, and other colleagues. Employers should also consider security measures and whether there is someone available to help with IT issues. There is no obligation for an employer to provide equipment for working at home but employers should do what they can to enable homeworking. Reasonable adjustments should be made for any employee who has a disability.

Working time

Employers may need to specify any changes to hours of work. Will the employee need to be available for work during strict office hours or work a specified set number of hours per day? There may be more flexibility in a working from home arrangement, but the Working Time Regulations 1998 should still be complied with, including the working week and daily rest break.

Health and safety

Employers are responsible for an employee’s health, safety and welfare both when working in the employer’s premises and when working from home. This means that employers should usually conduct risk assessments of all the work activities carried out by employees, including those working from home (duties arise under the Health and Safety Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999). Employers can provide guidance on health and safety risks arising from homeworking. You may wish to refer to the homeworking questionnaire. Employers must take measures to remove any hazards or, where this is not reasonably practicable, to minimise the associated risks.

Mental health

Home working can lead to increased risk of loneliness, inadequate supervision, stress, problems with work life balance and increased exposure to family issues. Available strategies include mentoring, regular contact and communication, monitoring stress levels, well publicised systems for reporting mental wellbeing issues and social online events. More information on supporting employees is available in the guide on mental health support during COVID-19.

Salary and expenses

Salary and benefits should remain the same during a period of home working although changes to expenses may be appropriate if normal travel expenses are no longer needed. See the question below for more on pay.

Data protection

Employers should make sure data protection obligations are maintained. An employee using their own computer should still process information in compliance with data protection principles. Employers may need to include express terms reserving a right to monitor work communications on home-based devices and set out a reminder about home security, confidential information, passwords, shredding etc. How data is transferred between home and the workplace also needs careful consideration. The ICO has produced guidance on data protection and working from home.

Insurance

Using different remote locations may mean that existing policies covering the employees themselves and the employers’ equipment insurance is inadequate. Check the employee's personal homeowner insurance and the employer's business policies to ensure there is no significant uninsured liability for either the employer or the employee. If the employer feels it is inadequate, they may offer to pay for increasing coverage. The employee's homeowner insurer should be notified about business activities taking place at home, and similarly, the insurer of the property where the employee is relocating to may need to be notified. There may also be motor insurance considerations for employees driving for work purposes.

For more information refer to top tips on getting the most from remote working.

Many employers have kept staff working from home on a full time or hybrid basis following the lockdown periods in the pandemic, and may have considered pay reductions. The legal starting point is always that changes to an employment contract require employees’ consent. If employers make pay reductions (or any other contractual changes) unilaterally, then this will be a breach of contract. Those who refuse to agree changes with at least two years’ service may have constructive unfair dismissal claims. There may also be wrongful dismissal claims which do not require a qualifying period.

Consent and risk

If employees do not consent, the usual strategies for employers regarding changes to contractual terms apply. These include imposing the pay cut anyway, attempting to rely on a contractual flexibility clause, or dismissal and reengagement (fire and rehire). These options all entail risk to morale, performance and reputation. Additionally, there may be claims for failure to consult, because dismissal and re-engagement of 20 or more employees requires collective consultation with elected employee representatives. In all cases absence of a fair process and consultation will increase the risk of claims.

If employers want to revise pay, the lowest risk option is to commence a process of seeking agreement to the new terms and conditions. Alternatives include, for example, imposing a new pay structure for new starters and perhaps phasing out things such as a London weighting.

Some employees will have childcare reasons for being more home-based. Pay reductions may then lead to potential discrimination or equal pay claims. Pay reductions for homeworkers could have the effect of widening the gender pay gap. There could be other discrimination issues too, if one group continue to receive a weighted location allowance, but others do not.

For consideration of the approaches to varying contractual terms see the Terms and conditions Q&As.

CIPD resources

Hybrid working resources

Remote working resources

Other resources

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