With the Covid-19 pandemic almost all but a distant memory, businesses are having to consider whether their workers should return to the office full time or continue to work from home. There is of course a third (and seemingly preferred) option of flexible or hybrid work, which itself became the new normal during the pandemic. There is no technical nor legal definition of hybrid working although it is understood to mean working from two or more locations, the office workspace and almost invariably working from home.
The government’s flexible working taskforce recommended that flexible working should be the default position for all workers, wherever possible. It has become increasingly clear that workers have in the main responded very positively to working from home as this allows them the requisite flexibility to balance their work obligations with their day-to-day responsibilities. By focusing principally on work outcomes rather than location, this may allow businesses to retain, and attract, workers who are both accustomed, and keen, to prioritise and maintain this newly found work/life balance.
How well is your business positioned for hybrid working?
There are some key issues to consider here:
1. Review the Contract of Employment
Where the worker’s contract of employment specifies the place of work, employers will need to consult with their workers and obtain their approval where possible rather than imposing a change of workplace unilaterally.
Whilst in practical terms this doesn’t prevent an employer from making such a change to their workers’ contract of employment, they might have to offer redundancy to a worker for whom a change to the place of work is not suitable. An employer could, if practicable, allow those workers to continue working solely from the workplace, and would need to ensure that hybrid workers are still offered the same opportunities and are not treated less favourably because of not being in the workplace every day.
2. Update existing policies and where appropriate introduce new policies
By introducing a hybrid working policy, an employer can set out its position and expectations and, importantly, be able to amend the policy in the future. This will allow for any practical or legislative updates as and when the need arises, and without having to consult with staff when wanting to implement changes in the future.
Where to start?
There are considerations that can be tackled in the short and longer term.
- Look at existing arrangements and see what works best for your business needs.
- Update contracts of employment and introduce a hybrid work policy.
- Carry out the necessary risk assessment at the remote place of work and check or provide any necessary equipment such as a laptop, monitor, headphones, desk and chair, lighting, printers, as well as ensuring remote cyber security and video conferencing software is installed.
- Check your business insurance policies covers workers working from home.
- Manage remote workers, who may well be more likely to have childcare responsibilities or a disability, to ensure they receive the same levels of support and opportunity as those who solely work in the office workplace to ensure that they are not treated less favourably.
- Review existing policies such as the data protection policy to ensure security of data of workers working remotely or disciplinary rules and procedures which set out expectations such as core hours of work.
- Offer training for those in managerial positions ensuring that remote workers are given regular feedback and support.
If you are thinking about clarifying your hybrid working policy, seek advice. Our employment team will be happy to help you find the right solution for your circumstances.