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28 May, 2020|

Employer Responsibilities: Working from Home

Home working is currently the normal way of working for many. And in a bid to avoid a second peak of Coronavirus cases, government advice suggests that this may be the case for the foreseeable future for those who are able to work from home.

With many entering their third full month of working from home this feels more like a long-term solution than many would have expected when lockdown was first announced back in March.  As an employer it is likely you are giving more and more thought to what your employer responsibilities are to those working from home.

Expenses

When employees are based in a workplace, commodities such as electricity usage, internet, heating, air conditioning etc are all covered under building management costs. Costs which are covered by the business. Likewise, any equipment needs are also covered. Such as new desks, chairs, office equipment and stationery, for example.

During the Coronavirus pandemic many employees are having to work from home, either because their workplace is shut or because they are having to self-isolate. And they are therefore potentially incurring additional expenses as a result.

It is possible in some cases for employees to claim tax relief for job related expenses. Including working from home. This is done through the process of a self-assessment tax return.

There are limitations however:

  • Can only claim for things related to your work e.g. extra costs of business telephone calls
  • Cannot claim for areas used for both private and business use e.g. internet
  • Cannot claim if you choose to work from home

Or alternatively, from the 6th April 2020, employers can pay up to £6 a week to employees to cover their additional costs if they have to work from home. Up to £26 a month. This is a change from the £4 a week stipulated in previous tax years.

The government have also issued guidance on which expenses are taxable if your employee works from home due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Something which may be useful to refer to you if employees are asking if they can expense desk purchases etc.

Health and safety

As an employer you have the same level of responsibility for your employee’s health and safety when they are working from home as you do when they are based in the workplace.

The HSE notes key areas to consider for those who work from home, either temporarily or permanently, include:

  • How will you keep in touch with them?
  • What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
  • Can it be done safely?
  • Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?

One of the key health and safety risks associated with home working is the use of display screen equipment (DSE).

When home working is temporary, employers do not need to conduct home work station assessments according to the HSE website.

But for those working from home on a long-term basis (as we seem to be heading towards with home working linked to the Coronavirus) home work station assessments must be carried out to manage risks associated with the use of DSE. Workers can conduct their own basic assessment if needed. And employers should ideally meet any social DSE equipment needs.

Find out more about working safely with display screen equipment here.

Communication

Communication is key at all times. And none more so than in the current situation. Staff could be dealing with a range of situations – juggling childcare and working hours, self-isolating, losses due to the Coronavirus, providing support to someone who is shielding, etc. So, it is vital to communicate and support staff to ensure their well-being at what is a challenging time for everyone.

It will also give you the chance to discuss employees’ personal situations and agree working arrangements which are most productive.

Equally, you may have staff who are currently on furlough. Whilst they are not able to carry out work for you whilst furloughed it is important to maintain communication and stay in touch as and where possible. Whilst also abiding by government guidelines when it comes to furloughed staff. Take a look at this guide to communicating with furloughed staff for some tips.

The HSE state that for those working from home, there can be a risk of work-related stress and an impact on mental health. Being away from colleagues and managers can also make it harder for people to seek sufficient help and support. So, as an employer it is your responsibility to ensure that employees are getting the support and guidance that they require.

Communication will also be a key element in making remote working a success for your business. It may be the first time you are dealing with remote working on such a significant scale or you may be used to having employees work from home. Either way, good quality and sustained communication will be of benefit to all.

Like so many businesses, we at Anthony Jones find ourselves adapting to different working situations so understand the challenges many employers and employees are currently facing. If you do want to discuss your business insurance needs or risk management strategies, then do get in touch with us in the usual ways.