Weathering the storm

With the recent closures of many businesses and office spaces nationwide due to Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Emma, many employees will have enjoyed “snow days” while many others will have continued to put in their 9-5 hours from their own homes.

While the recent weather incidents may be an extreme example, they highlight the fact that many employment relationships can continue to function effectively away from the office.

Work-life balance

In ordinary everyday life, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to get the “work-life balance” right. With ever-increasing house prices, more and more people live further and further outside the cities in which they work and face long daily commutes.

In addition, there is the consideration that many highly successful workers may have external businesses or other interests outside their employment and have the commercial bargaining power to negotiate a flexible working relationship.

Trend towards flexible working

More and more, in order to retain talented individuals many employers are trying to adopt more flexible working arrangements, which often encompass some degree of working from home. As this growing trend looks set to continue it is worth considering some of the legal issues that can arise around working from home and how best to approach them. One solution is to prepare and implement a comprehensive working from home policy.

Some of the issues such a policy might cover are:

  1. Objective criteria to be considered to qualify for a working from home arrangement
  2. Maintaining appropriate data protection and confidentiality around client and business information. This will be all the more important with the new considerations arising on foot of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into effect this May
  3. Systems access and information security
  4. Performance management – where an individual works mainly from home it may prove more realistic to judge performance more on output than hours worked. It may be beneficial then to couple a good working from home policy with a flexi time policy
  5. Working time compliance and maintenance of working time records pursuant to the Organisation of Working Time Act
  6. Health and Safety Considerations

Another legal consideration for employers is whether there are arguably situations where equality law may give rise to a possible obligation to consider a working from home arrangement, for example, due to disability or family status considerations.

Future of the working environment

It looks like working from home is here to stay, which means it is quite possible the future of work may involve working from home policies being introduced to company hand-books as standard along side the usual employee policies like grievance and disciplinary policies, dignity at work / equal opportunities policies and other common employment policies.