The future of work has arrived. Employers and employees need to adjust to a new relationship rapidly. Here is some advice, plus a warning or two, from Ben Power: Managing Partner of Springhouse Solicitors and seasoned employment lawyer.
What remote working will mean
As employers and employees alike, we are all getting used to homeworking and for many this will become the new normal. This will be a difficult thing for many. Some employers will need to get over their mistrust of flexible working. Employees will need to get used to an increased interest in what they deliver; mere attendance at work will no longer be enough.
Legally, it’s all about control
From a legal point of view the employment contract has been all about control. Generally speaking, the more a business wants to be able to dictate the way someone does his or her job, the more inclined they will be to want them to be an employee. The employment contract is all about the ability to control the way a job is done.
But suddenly staff are telecommuting from home and having to blend their household, family and personal responsibilities with their work. Control over the way a job is done has become impossible, and the focus will need to be on delivery. Putting less emphasis on the way a job is done and more on what is delivered has until now been the preserve of the freelancer and the consultancy agreement, which can often be via a service company.
With great control comes great responsibility
In return for giving control over to their employer, and shifting the balance of power in this way, law-makers have seen that employees are owed a duty of care; from the way they are selected for work, the way they are treated during employment, to the way their employment can be brought to an end.
Employers: be aware!
When the control is no longer feasible because the employee is working remotely, the temptation is to assume that the legal responsibilities have relaxed also.
Remember: employment law is still a thing; it has not changed. However, the stakes are much higher now.
We have moved in an instant from an economy with practically full employment to perhaps the worst economic landscape since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Whereas pre-pandemic employees may have decided not to bring a claim because alternative employment was easy, this is no longer the case. Losses will be higher. The cost/benefit of bringing a claim has shifted, and the dreaded tribunals will be more likely.
You may be tempted not to follow the proper processes and get the best paper trails in place in this time of fast moving events and business distress, but now is a time to be more diligent than ever.
Employees: be aware!
Remember: your employer will still want control. All your normal responsibilities of loyalty, dedication, confidentiality and performance are still there. The way you work will still be important. And remember that the focus will, more than ever, be on delivery. ‘Coming up with the goods’ is just as important outside the office or place of work.
We are putting homeworking policies in place for clients. These come highly recommended. Where possible we encourage you to give the policy the added strength of becoming part of the contract itself. This is because it lays down guidance and rules for the most important matters such as:
- Responsibility and care for company property
- Expenses incurred through home working
- Keeping company and client information confidential
- Working hours
- Responsibility for health and safety
We are also putting homeworking checklists in place. These take the form of a questionnaire for employees to complete. Crucial matters are covered such as:
- Fire safety
- Electrical safety
- Separation from distractions such as pets and family members
- Information security
- Workstation safety
If you would like to discuss putting these arrangements in place for your homeworkers, please get in touch.