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What should I look for before signing an agreement to start homeworking?
Homeworkers enjoy the same legal rights as other employees working from the employer's premises. However, in order to take into account the different aspects of working from home, it is important to consider the following and to make sure that any necessary amendments to your contract are made:
- Homeworking should be a voluntary arrangement, ideally with a right to return to working from the office.
- Place of work. If working from home, there should, where possible, be a separate room available to work from, a separate telephone line, and additional heating and lighting costs should be taken into account. To avoid isolation, there should also be arrangements for attendance at on-site team meetings.
- Hours of work. Greater flexibility, within the limits of the Working Time Regulations, may be possible, perhaps with a set ‘core’ time when homeworkers undertake to be working or to be contactable. You will also need to know when and how you can contact the reporting manager and other company personnel.
- Support: you need to know how to contact your line manager, co-workers and others within your organisation for a friendly word so that you do not feel cut off or anxious. There should also be arrangements for regular team and one-to-one meetings.
- Extra responsibilities or duties over and above those agreed. This may include procedures for reporting to the office.
- Expenses policies may have to be altered, for example to allow claims for expenses to attend team meetings or travel to the office for other reasons. Ad hoc train travel without a season ticket is very expensive. Allowances for business rates, heating, lighting, wear and tear, etc. should be considered.
- Employer’s access arrangements to the working area may need to be clarified. Health and safety requirements mean that an employer has a responsibility to assess the home workplace (e.g. for electrical power supply, ergonomic use of equipment, etc.).
- Provision of equipment by the employer. This might include the provision of a telephone/broadband line for work purposes.
- Equipment and data security procedures (including back up) should be put in place. Your employer must take clear contractual responsibility for data security and for keeping data security processes effective and up to date.
- Insurance. Employer’s insurance may need to be extended to cover the home and should cover, for example, losses caused by breaches in data security. Workers should check whether working from home impacts on their home insurance, and also check the extent of that cover if privately owned equipment is used for work purposes.
- Holiday and sick leave arrangements such as notifying the office and ensuring correct record keeping procedures should be followed.
- Homeworkers should have access to trade union representation and be able to attend meetings within working hours. Health and safety advisers and trade union representatives should be able to visit homeworkers.