Covid-19, with its enforced move to remote working for many, has inevitably resulted in employers considering what their post-pandemic working model might look like. A return to what was in place in March 2020; a fully remote model; or a hybrid of home and office working?
A fully remote work model…
One option is to make the current homeworking arrangements permanent, so that employees work from home full time except when attendance at the office is required for things such as client meetings, training, and team building exercises (as reported here, for example).
…… or a hybrid model?
However, recent reports indicate that few employers plan to have a 100% remote workforce for the long term, with the majority in favour of a move towards a blended or hybrid working model which would allow working time to be split between the office and home (see for example here and here).
The practical implications of moving to a remote or hybrid working model
If you are considering a remote working model, whether full-time or part-time, here are some of the issues to consider:
Policies & training
Data protection & confidentiality
|Communicate your homeworking standards clearly, including on IT security, maintaining confidentiality when working in a shared space (particularly during telephone or video calls) and appropriate storage and destruction of documents if these are printed. If you have not already done so, you may need to provide additional IT equipment and introduce specific policies on data security and confidentiality when homeworking.
Health & safety
Engagement & inclusion
There is much discussion to be had around the challenges of replicating normal office interactions and sustaining workforce engagement and inclusion when working remotely. Communication will be key.
Homeworking without direct supervision can be daunting; it can also increase the risks of work-related stress and other mental health issues such as anxiety. In addition, homeworkers may be more prone to loneliness and may feel isolated from their colleagues, which can affect stress levels and mental health. To help reduce these risks you could for example:
Working from abroad
|Spotify is one of the employers to have announced that going forward it is going to allow all its employees to choose where to work, both in terms of being in the office or at home; and their geographic location. Read our earlier blog to find out about the potential employment, immigration and tax implications of working remotely from abroad.
How do we implement remote or hybrid working?
Some businesses may be planning to give employees the option of where to work from in the long-term. However if this is not the case, and a new working model is being imposed on the workforce, there will need to be an assessment as to the best way of doing that.
Do we need to amend employment contracts?
You could opt to go down the route of formally changing existing employees' terms and conditions. If so, you will need to follow an appropriate process.
In some circumstances you will be able to rely on a 'mobility clause' (which states that you can change the place of work). However, for changes not authorised by the contract, you should consult on the proposals; seek employees' agreement either directly or via collective bargaining; and identify how to approach any decliners (you could impose the change unilaterally or dismiss and re-engage on new terms although both options carry risks).
Collective consultation obligations could be triggered if there's a proposal to dismiss and re-engage at least 20 employees at one establishment within 90 days. There is also a discrimination risk if the reason for not consenting is a protected characteristic such as sex or disability.
Is there an alternative to formal contractual change?
Alternatively, rather than changing all individual contracts you could adopt a remote / hybrid working model in your organisation on a 'discretionary', 'non-contractual' basis. This approach is likely to involve introducing a home & hybrid working policy, which sets your expectations around the level of homeworking and then agreeing informal arrangements with individual employees.
Note, however, that if an employee doesn’t agree to informal changes you may find that you need to consider following a process to change their terms and conditions. Also, imposing a change to 'informal' arrangements in future could risk breaching trust and confidence or (for example, in cases where childcare has been arranged on the basis of certain arrangements) discrimination.
This is a high-level summary of some issues to think about if contemplating moving to a remote or hybrid working model - please get in touch with a member of the employment and immigration team for more information.
Workbox by Brodies has detailed guidance on home and hybrid working and changing terms and conditions including a template home and hybrid working contract and policy: if you are not currently a user and would like a free trial or demo, please get in touch.