Are there legal risks to remote working?

words Al Woods

While remote and hybrid working has been a growing trend for some years now, the Covid-19 pandemic threw things forward at a rapid pace, with the result being that some 70% of UK professionals worked in a remote capacity in those early months of 2020.

remote working law

Along with the multiple other potential issues surrounding remote working, are the associated legal concerns. It’s a relatively new situation that most employers find themselves in, making it even more important to catch up fast, to avoid any potentially negative legal repercussions. 

Situations such as the safety of your remote workers, whether your employees are overseas, and even broader requirements of childcare are all aspects that not only need to be explored, but taken into consideration when setting-up a remote working approach. We explore some of the main areas to be aware of below. 

GDPR compliance

GDPR compliance has been an area of increasing concern over the past five years or so. While most businesses had managed to achieve appliance in the workplace, with close control over the networks and computers used to share sensitive information, remote working adds multiple complications.

If each employee works from their home, then each home must be checked – a massive task in itself. When employees start working in cafes and other remote locations, it can become even more complicated. Often, it’s necessary to seek expert advice to ensure that compliance is achieved going forward.

Health and safety

There is a legal duty for employers to ensure that their employees work in conditions that are health and safety compliant at all times. This extends beyond the workplace and includes home offices.

Employers need to carry out regular risk assessments for each employee’s workplace, while remaining sensitive to the fact that home offices exist within a private environment. Employees do have a certain responsibility themselves, but employers need to ensure that the appropriate measures are taken, particularly with more sensitive individuals such as those with disabilities

Home office expenses

While employers can stand to make significant savings from having employees work in a remote capacity, it can be inappropriate to pass those expenses on to their employees. Some employers pay for home internet, others provide a lump sum to help set up a suitable working environment.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that it covers your legal bases and include it in your company policy. Making it clear to potential new employees how you’ll support them in working from home may also help attract talent and improve employee retention rates.

Childcare

While not always the legal responsibility of an employer, it is important to be sensitive to the childcare needs of employees. Working from home can sometimes complicate childcare arrangements, as can denying employee requests to work remotely. It’s important to avoid any potential actions that could lead to sex discrimination claims or alienate certain employees.

The legal area surrounding remote working is nuanced, and requires a sensitive approach on behalf of employers. Be prepared to adapt your practices and accommodate new requests going forward, and be sure to thoroughly research your legal responsibilities to remote employees.

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