In his address to the nation on Friday 27 March, Leo Varadkar referred to home-working as a means of implementing the public health policy of “social distancing”. Previously seen as a route to work-life balance, home-working is now one of the tools at our disposal to suppress the spread of Covid-19. It has been elevated to the status of a civic responsibility.
Here, we share our top 5 best practice tips for employers adopting home-working practices:
- Issue your employees with guidance on setting up a safe and ergonomic working environment at home. Employees should be encouraged to carry out a self-risk assessment; this will help you to identify any potential hazards or additional equipment that employees need. Employers still owe their employees a duty of care, even if they are working remotely. The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland recently issued its guidance on the topic.
- Maintain regular communication with your employees. This will bolster morale and mitigate against the risk of employees’ mental health deteriorating as a result of working in isolation. We recommend that line managers diarise virtual meetings with their teams and keep as many channels of communication open as possible. This is where 21st century technology comes into its own.
- Check that employees are taking their breaks and recording their working time. Employers are required by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 to keep these records. Without this information, an employer will not know whether it is permitting an employee to work in excess of the 48-hour (average) limit on the working week.
- Bring your policies on confidentiality and information security to the attention of your employees. Employees should be reminded of the steps that they must take to safely store company property, dispose of confidential material, and prevent others accessing confidential information.
- Explain which expenses the employer will meet. For example, employees working from home may incur additional expenses in relation to postage, electricity and broadband.
The success of a home-working arrangement often depends on the obligations and expectations of the employer and employee being clearly defined from the outset. There is much to be said for putting in place a home-working policy or updating an existing policy, even if flexible working arrangements are being adopted at pace. This is particularly so, given that these arrangements may have to remain in place for some time.
Contributed by Ben Conway
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