Working From Home – Guidance for Employers

Tue Nov 3 2020

Dear Member,

More employees are now working from home either part-time or fulltime, and it is important that employers understand the responsibility for their employee’s health, safety, and welfare.

Below we address some issues that may assist you when managing employees working from home.

  • Procedure for working from home
  • Employees workspace and Health & Safety
  • Data protection and cybersecurity when working from home
  • Annual leave during COVID-19 restrictions
  • The right to work from home when the restrictions have been lifted
  • Supporting Employees

PROCEDURE FOR WORKING FROM HOME

Employers, with employees working from home, should put in place a policy for working from home. Please find attached our sample procedure.

 EMPLOYEES WORKSPACE AND HEALTH & SAFETY

Employers have a specific duty to ensure a safe work environment including employee’s workspace even if an employee works from home.

If employees who are young workers or are pregnant, employers need to ensure that their work and conditions do not adversely affect their health. You can get more information here on sensitive risk groups.

When an employee is working from home you should check to ensure:

  • That they are aware of any specific risks
  • That their work and workspace are suitable
  • That they have suitable equipment
  • That there is a means of contact between you and the employee

Examples of questions you could ask about the workspace include the following:

  • Have you a suitable space to work from?
  • Does the workspace have adequate light, ventilation and heat?
  • Does the workspace allow you to work without twisting, bending or sitting/standing awkwardly?
  • Is there enough space to accommodate any equipment needed?
  • Is the floor clear and dry, e.g. clear of electrical cables or other trip hazards?
  • Are electrical sockets, plugs and cords in good condition e.g. no exposed wiring or frayed cables?

Employers should carry out an online ergonomic assessment of an employee’s workspace to make sure that it is set up correctly. It is recommend that employers adopt a two-stage approach to the assessment process in the current environment.

Stage One

  • Send each employee a questionnaire, click here for a sample questionnaire.
  • When the questionnaire is returned identify any areas that need attention and address these issues e.g. through the provision of equipment.

Stage Two

  • Once you have addressed issues identified in stage one, you should then complete an online ergonomic risk assessment.
  • This can be done remotely via video call; to make sure that the workspace is appropriate for the employee’s needs.
  • A copy of the HSA’s Display Screen Equipment Risk Assessment can be found here

Data Protection and Cybersecurity When Working from Home

The Data Protection Commission issued guidance on data protection when working from home.

 Employers should ensure that:

  • Devices been used have the necessary updated, operating system, software, and antivirus
  • Devices should only be used in a safe location, where no one else can view the screen
  • Devices should be locked if they are left unattended for any reason
  • Devices should be stored securely when not in use
  • Access controls should be in place such as strong passwords and where available encryption to restrict access to the device
  • Work email accounts not personal ones should be used for work-related emails
  • Where possible only the organisation’s trusted networks or cloud services should be used
  • Steps should be taken to ensure the security and confidentiality of paper records, by keeping them locked in a filing cabinet or drawer when not in use

The National Cyber Security Centre has also published a guide on Working From Home Security Advice.

There are privacy rules you must follow when monitoring employees and these rules also apply when they are working from home. Click here to get information on surveillance in the workplace.

Annual Leave During COVID-19 Restrictions

Employees continue to build up annual leave entitlements when working from home.

While employees may not want to take leave, you may not want employees to keep all their leave until later in the year. Under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, employers can ask employees to take some of their leave before a certain date provided they consult with the employee at least one month prior to the taking of the leave. It should be noted that employees should be left with a proportionate amount of annual leave for the remainder of the year.

Employers can also refuse to cancel annual leave which has already been booked. You may allow employees carry over annual leave until the next annual leave year.

The Right to Work from Home When Restrictions Have Been Lifted?

Employees do not have a right to work from home.

An employee’s rights should be set out in their contract of employment. Most contracts of employment have a requirement that the employee must appear at a designated place of work. It is also common for employers to have a right to change the designated place of work. In those circumstances, employers can insist on employees returning to the workplace.

SUPPORTING EMPLOYEES

It is important that you support your employee’s wellbeing when they are working from home.

Here are some tips on how you can support your employees:

  • Keep in regular contact with employees
  • Provide regular updates to employees
  • Send employees tips on working from home (see sample here)
  • Have an emergency procedure which includes emergency contacts
  • Ensure employees are taking adequate breaks – see information on rest periods and breaks here

CONTACT US

If you have any questions on the above, please contact Rachel McGovern at rachel@brokersireland.ie

 

Regards

Rachel McGovern

Financial Services Director


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