As we know the Government have now announced that those who can work from home should, just as a lot of businesses had started returning to offices. But how will this work in practice?
The guidance that has been published states:
“To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so. Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.”
I think this makes it makes it quite clear and allows for a common sense approach. It isn’t saying that everyone who works in an office MUST work from home it is saying that where possible they should. This doesn’t mean that now everybody who has just returned to the office should now return to working from home. It will be down to employers and employees to discuss the options. Some employers may want some staff in the office, particularly if not all of their job can be done from home and some employees may also not want to work from home for various reasons such as mental health and missing the lack of social interaction. Some employers are working on a rota basis to provide a happy medium and less numbers in one place at one time.
Issues employers will need to consider if they haven’t done so before are providing equipment for working from home, whether they have working from home policy, DSE assessments and keeping in touch regularly with staff. Employees should also be aware that they can claim tax relief of up to £6 a week to cover additional costs if they work from home. They can check online if they can claim.
Yes, it is a bit of a headache for employers, but they can require staff to attend the workplace, as long as they are following the Covid-19 Secure Guidelines. These can be found in the Working Safely during Coronavirus guidance. They key steps are that they have risk assessed, put measures in place such as additional cleaning, face coverings where needed, social distancing, increased ventilation and are keeping a record of staff and contractors for 21 days for certain sectors (which is enforced in law from 18 September). If they can demonstrate they have taken all the appropriate measures that they can to ensure the workplace is as safe as possible and an employee refuses to attend the workplace then that individual will not necessarily have the right to be paid. Always a tricky one though so best to seek advice on the particular circumstances.
This will no doubt lead to some conflict within the workplace though, as some employers will not want staff to work at home and the employees will want to work from home and vice versa. Dealing with these issues are important and it’s all about the communication and laying out the options! Employers may also need to make exceptions for those with a health issue, although shielding is still currently paused these individuals may understandably be more anxious.
I’ll leave you with the thought that ‘you can’t please everyone!’………….