A number of organisations have issued guidance to employers and their staff with regard to the Government’s recent instruction that, wherever possible, people should work from home.

The TUC says that staff must:

  • have access to safe working conditions in their own home

  • have access to relevant equipment and IT with employers paying for wi-fi for workers who do not have internet access at home

  • have a clear understanding of what work they are expected to carry out, especially if this differs from their usual duties

  • take regular breaks and follow their usual working hours if possible

  • keep in contact with colleagues — by email, Skype, phone and chat for example — to avoid the mental health effects of isolation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also warns, in guidance available at https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/home.htm, that homeworking can cause work-related stress and affect people’s mental health

It reminds employers of the rules concerning work with display screen equipment and lone working without supervision.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has highlighted the fact that a number of people who are now working from home will also have their children present due to the closure of schools.

Chief Executive Peter Cheese said: “Employers need to make allowances for this and take a flexible approach, especially for people with younger children who will inevitably need more care. With many schools looking at remote teaching, parents will have to juggle their work with helping their children to access school activities”.

There may be limited space and limited equipment to manage both parents and children working from home each day, he points out, and there will undoubtedly be disruption.

Acas has published homeworking advice, recognising that employers and staff who are following the Government’s advice may be homeworking for the first time and be unsure about their rights or how to best manage the situation.

Its detailed guidance, which can be found at https://www.acas.org.uk/working-from-home, covers areas including: insurance, mortgage or rent agreements; pay and terms and conditions of employment; the need to set clear expectations; and the need to look after mental and physical health.

Comment from Peninsula Employment Law Director Alan Price

The advantage of having effective policies and guidelines for working from home was highlighted by Boris Johnson’s declaration of a ‘national emergency’ on 25 March 2020 and imposition of a near total ‘lockdown’ of the UK to protect against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people must now work from home for at least three weeks. These crucial policies and guidance set out the responsibilities and risks for the employee and employer during the forced period of remote working.

But this is only half the story. The situation for many working parents is complicated by the Government’s previous announcement that all schools and nurseries must close – apart from the provision for ‘key’ workers.

How can parents who now must work from home balance the needs of the organisation against the demands of young children?

Unpaid leave cannot be the answer for everyone. Despite much-welcomed Government financial intervention on behalf of business and workers, the spectre of widespread redundancies is starting to haunt the workplace.

Last reviewed 26 March 2020