Make sure HR policies cover home working, top solicitor advises…

Employment lawyer Lisa Branker

A LEADING North East solicitor is advising companies to ensure that their HR policies are fit for purpose and cover people working from home.

With the current lockdown meaning staff in many businesses are once again out of the office, it is essential that HR practices take into account homeworking.

Lisa Branker, employment lawyer with Richard Reed Solicitors in Sunderland said that companies should not only be reviewing their HR policies to ensure they are up to date, but that they should also check they cover any change in circumstances.

“Companies which have a working from home policy need to ensure it’s fit for purpose, particularly in light of the current situation,” said Lisa.

“Even when we are through the pandemic, many organisations may continue with allowing staff to work from home so it’s vital all the necessary requirements are in place.”

Lisa said that a home working policy “needs to be about much more than the occasional day of working from home to let the plumber in.”

“It needs to address the details of the arrangement including who provides equipment, who is responsible for damage to equipment and insurance,” she added.

“At the same time, the company may need to consider any contribution to homeworking costs and also look into any tax breaks that may be available.”

The solicitor revealed that the health and safety of staff working from home still remains the responsibility of the employer.

“If the homeworking arrangement looks like it may be permanent the employer needs to ensure that the set up is suitable,” she said.

This could include having display screen assessments carried out, which are laid out in guidelines available from the Health and Safety Executive.

“The employer is still responsible for the safety of any equipment they provide,” said Lisa.

“Which also raises the question, does the policy allow the employer to go to employees’ homes to check the equipment or would they need to bring it to work?”

The solicitor also highlighted the responsibility the company has for the mental wellbeing of its staff, particularly if they are going to be working in isolation rather than in the office environment.

“Managers need to be aware of this and may need special training on the way they can help employees,” she added.

“There’s never been a better time for employers to refresh and review their HR policies which will put them in a strong position to deal with any challenges the new year brings.”

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