Working from home, the legal HR perspective.

With this lockdown comes the request that the nation works from home wherever possible. Here’s our perspective on the legal aspects you need to consider this time around.

The main considerations:

  • You MUST facilitate home / remote working wherever possible for your employees so they can STAY AT HOME during lockdown.
  • Staff can go into the office if necessary, it’s legally permissible for them to travel from their home to workplace.
  • If the roles of your staff involve travel, for example they are a solicitor who needs to see clients up and down the country, they are allowed to travel to perform this work. If your staff are visiting homes as part of their job they MUST follow the government guidelines (Other people’s homes – Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)). You must therefore make staff aware of this guidance.
  • Classifying your staff as a critical worker to facilitate them accessing education for their children is currently a point under discussion. Providing a letter to confirm an employee is needed in the workplace might not make them a critical worker.
  • The sectors considered critical this time includes:
    • critical national infrastructure
    • construction
    • manufacturing
    • childcare or education
    • essential public services
  • If you can’t avoid bringing people into the workplace the government has requested that flexibility is put in place for those using public transport to avoid busy rush hour periods.
  • You need to provide IT and other equipment to employees to facilitate them undertaking their work away from the workplace.
  • If people are in the workplace it’s essential to make it as COVID safe as possible especially with the new aggressive variants reported.

Working parents and their rights

Schools are expected to provide minimum set hours of home learning for children. Many parents will need to facilitate this home schooling which will have an impact on their efficiency and output when they are working from home.

Many parents will have found last week exceptionally stressful balancing the need to ensure their child’s education continues, usual domestic life and working the hours they are committed to.

Research by YouGov and Working Parents (a work-life balance charity) highlighted that in 2020, 1 in 5 working parents, that’s 2.6m people, felt they had been treated less fairly at work since the pandemic began in the UK. Offering flexibility is essential; compassion and empathy should be at the top of every employer and managers mind to get the best out of their employees right now.

Remember working parents do have a right to ask for a temporary change in their working hours or schedule in usual times. There’s a difference between informal and formal requests (formal requests can take up to 3 months to make a decision on the actual request).

There’s also parental leave that could be used for those with children under 18 years of age, it’s a form of statutory unpaid leave. However, with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme available it could be considered unfair to implement this form of leave, the same could be said for expecting them to take annual leave.

Furloughing working parents

The current government guidance is that due the need to be in a caring role due to coronavirus parents should be able to request to be furloughed.  It’s definitely worth having a conversation with your employees if you can operate the business without their input as whilst on furlough you cannot ask them to complete any work. You still have a right to refuse to furlough them as the employer.

Flexi-furlough could be a good option for you both, this means they work some of the hours they usually do and are furloughed for the remainder. You can see if this is the scheme to help you here Flexible furlough scheme starts today – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

You could have a conversation about furloughing working parents, even offering flexi-options where they are work half their hours. This is the current advice from the government; however you would still need to consult the employee as to whether they wish to be furloughed.

Need assistance with any of this?

We can help. If you need any support or advice, please get in touch with one of our friendly team, contact – lisa.lenton@bmcprecept.com or 07469 153048