Coronavirus: Employees Working From Home

Mary Palmer

With Boris Johnson announcing last night that the UK would be going into lockdown (in all but name), this meant that many businesses would now have to ask their employees, where possible, to start working from home.

Whilst this might have meant a last minute scramble to find enough laptops for everyone and ensure that everyone knows how to use Skype, Slack or Zoom, it has also thrown up many interesting questions for businesses in terms of where responsibility lies for home workers.

We try our best to answer those questions here on our blog …

What if we put an employee on furlough? Is that the same as home working?

No. Employees who are on furlough are entitled to receive up to 80% of their wages on the basis that they are not allowed to do any work for your company whilst receiving this pay. They are still employed by you and on your payroll, but the government is covering a percentage of their salary.

Who is responsible for health and safety of home workers?

You are. All the normal health and safety legislation (including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Display Screen Equipment Regulations, and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) continue to apply, and you have the usual duty of care to your home-based employees.

What about data and compliance? Who is responsible for that?

Again, this falls to the employer. If your employees are dealing with other people’s data, you will have to ensure that your data security policy covers working from home and that all employees are taking due care and applying appropriate procedures to prevent a data breach. You may even want to ensure that all laptops, notebooks and other work items can be locked away at the end of the working day.

If the equipment is ours but it is in an employee’s home, whose insurance covers it?

That is for you to decide with your employee. It can go on either insurance policy whilst the employee is at home, particularly since the current ‘lockdown’ is due to last for approximately three weeks.

If we contribute to an employee’s running costs (e.g. WiFi), is that taxable?

In practice, HMRC may allow dispensation on expenses incurred for work and related purposes. This can include things such as heating, lighting, the metered costs of increased water usage, increases in the cost of home contents insurance or mobile phone usage. The expenses must be deemed ‘reasonable’, and may not include the costs of alterations to the premises, or purchase of furniture.

All of the information laid out here was taken from the SME and start-up legal guide, Law Donut. For more information on business support during the coronavirus pandemic, visit the Scottish Government website.

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