Latest Position On Homeworking
There have been numerous changes to the advice on working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As businesses start to fully re-open, many of these businesses are asking or even demanding that their staff return to the workplace, but is this correct?
The latest position in England is that employees should continue to work from home where they can. Government guidance supports this and recommends that “every possible step” should be taken to allow employees to work from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working. Where full-time homeworking is not possible, employers should adopt a mix of home and office-based working.
In the COVID-19 Spring 2021 roadmap published in February 2021, the government advised that the current position on working from home where possible will continue until step 4, which will commence no earlier than 21 June 2021.
Where employees cannot work from home including but not limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing, they should continue to travel to their workplace. There is no need to be classed as a critical worker to go to work, if they cannot work from home. The Working Safely guidance from the government notes that a return to the workplace may be suitable for staff who are facing mental or physical difficulties, or those with a particularly challenging home working environment.
Employers should in particular consider the position of any clinically extremely vulnerable staff. While shielding was paused in England and Wales on 31 March 2021, clinically extremely vulnerable employees remain advised to work from home, where possible. On 12 May 2020, the government updated the Access to Work guidance to make it clear that eligible disabled employees can claim financial support where they need to work from home as a result of the pandemic.
Finally, the ongoing difficulty for employers on handling homeworking staff with caring responsibilities seems likely to continue. In normal circumstances, it would not be appropriate for an employee to work from home while also providing childcare or looking after an elderly relative. However, employers may need to take a pragmatic approach during this ongoing pandemic as placing a blanket ban on working from home while caring for children or indeed older relatives or those who are sick, may restrict a large proportion of the workforce from undertaking their duties. The ACAS guidance on Working from Home suggests that more flexible homeworking arrangements could include: working different hours, reducing work targets, being flexible about deadlines, if possible, and permitting employees to work a half-day or half of the week. On 5 January 2021, the government’s guidance on the Employees’ Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was updated and made it clear that employees may be furloughed if they have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19, such as caring for children at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing or if they are required to care for a vulnerable individual in their household.
For advice or further information on complying with Covid 19 rules in the workplace or to obtain a FREE Homeworking Policy, call Henry Doswell of Doswell Law Solicitors on 01233 722942. Alternatively, email Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Whilst every reasonable effort is made to make the information and commentary contained in this blog accurate and up to date, Henry Doswell takes no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it. The information and commentary in this blog does not constitute legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about your case or matter.