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The current Government Guidance, which is advisory and not a legal requirement, is that employees who can work from home “should do so” rather than “must do so”.

The starting point should be a discussion between employers and employees as to whether home working is practical. However, it is open to any employee with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service to request flexible working. The process they have to follow has been simplified though any request still needs to be submitted in writing. Employers are required to consider and respond to a flexible working request but can reject it if it is reasonable for them to do so.

The Guidance suggests that where an employee does not have the necessary equipment to work from home, they can be required to attend the place of work. There is no obligation on the employer to supply equipment to allow for home working. Additionally, the employer can require the employee to attend the workplace if it is believed they would otherwise be caused a health issue, either mental or physical. Therefore, an employer might be in difficulty in pressing an employee to work from home if the latter indicates a desire not to because of the potential impact on their health or other issues relating to the home working environment.

Employers are legally required to ensure the health and safety of all employees, which includes those working from home. Because of the sudden introduction of the first “lockdown” and “social distancing”, this is unlikely to have been possible in the first instance. However, particularly if a longer term practice is being considered, employers should now be ensuring staff working at home are doing so in a safe environment. This may involve carrying out regular risk assessments to ensure employees can work safely from home. This may mean making adjustments, particularly for employees with a disability.

It should, however, be noted that employees also have a responsibility for their own health and safety. Therefore, if they have any concerns about the suitability of their homeworking environment, they should raise these with their employer.

For further information please contact Paul McGrath by email at paul.mcgrath@jackamans.co.uk or call him on 01473 255591.

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