Reactivating the workforce and returning to work – the legal considerations

27 June 2022

Revisit your contracts of employment

If workers will work more remotely on a permanent basis, does the place of work and hours of work need updating to reflect the agreed position in case there is a dispute later on? What expenses will the employer reimburse the employee for when they are working remotely? For example, will employers reimburse the cost of travel if the employee has to go to the office, the costs of any IT / home office equipment? Will employers contribute to utility bills whilst employees work from home? There are tax consequences which you should consider before making your decision.

Are employees working remotely handling sensitive commercial data or personal data belonging to your employees or customers? Will they be receiving hard copy documents as well as soft copy ones? If so, employers need to protect their organisation by ensuring the contracts have the necessary obligations of confidentiality and the right to request the return of company property at any time.

Have you carried out home working Health & Safety risk assessments?

To ensure your employees have a safe working environment at home - for example, have they set their desk, chair and IT equipment up correctly and has all the electrical equipment they are using from home satisfied the necessary safety tests?

Monitoring rest breaks

How are you ensuring and monitoring whether employees are taking the necessary rest breaks from work whilst they are at home? Recent case law has confirmed that employers must be able to prove that their employees are not working in excess of the legal limits and are taking the legally required rest breaks from work.

Information Security

Is your information security still fit for purpose? If those working from home regularly handle employee or customer personal data, data privacy impact assessments need to be undertaken to ensure that steps are taken to protect the privacy of that data. The more people you have working from home, the more susceptible you are to cyber security threats via their home networks.

Future reward and incentive strategy

What employees value from a job is changing. This pandemic changed what's important to staff. The ability to work from home has increased demand for non-traditional working hours. Mental health and well-being will almost certainly be top of the agenda. Unless already in place, you could introduce non-financial benefits such as mental health support or Employee Assistance Programmes.  

You may also need to revisit what incentives will be linked to - should it just be financial performance or should other non-financial performance metrics have just as much importance? For example, should how they demonstrate the organisation's core values carry more weight in the future.

And finally, is now the time to introduce a share incentive plan, giving employees a stake in the business and its future success as we emerge from the crisis?

If you have any concerns regarding the above, please contact Charlie Barnes.