How To Minimise the Legal Risks of Remote Working

January 4, 2022

 

By Damian Phillips

By now, numerous surveys have shown that remote working (whether fully remote or as part of a hybrid working model) is the preferred choice for many employees, while employers are increasingly appreciative of the fact that it is a viable option which does not typically result in reduced work output. However, remote working is not without its risks and these must be managed carefully.

Possible Risks of Remote Working

  1. Employee isolation – When working from home, employees may feel that they are less capable of accessing the appropriate support from colleagues or senior management if they are suffering from issues such as burnout as they would be if they were physically present in an office;

  2. Data protection breaches – Protecting the personal data and confidentiality of employees, contacts and customers is generally easier to manage where all employees are working from a central location. However, should employees who work remotely live in shared accommodation or use, for example, public wi-fi networks for work, this can clearly present risks of personal data being seen / obtained by third parties;

  3. Overlooking health and safety obligations – It is easy for employers to forget that they have a continuing obligation to protect the health and safety of their employees at work, regardless of whether they work remotely or from an office.

How to Manage These Risks

  • Maintain / promote collaboration and inclusivity – The benefits of regular Zoom / Teams meetings to stay in touch with colleagues and bounce ideas off one another cannot be underestimated. Zoom and Teams have been, and will continue to be, invaluable tools for maintaining contact and promoting a sense of togetherness amongst colleagues.

  • Raise awareness of employees’ data protection obligations – Employers should amend their data protection policy  – e.g. to deal with how physical documents should be stored securely, how and when they should be destroyed, and who should and shouldn’t be able to access them. Also, employers conduct periodic training sessions on data protection compliance to ensure that employees are aware of their responsibilities whether they are working remotely or in an office.

  • Carry out health and safety assessments – Employers should update their health and safety policies so that they risk assess each employee’s remote or hybrid working arrangement, to take into account how safe an employee’s work setup is and to satisfy their duty of care towards them. For example, is the physical equipment being used suitable and safe? Are employees aware that they must report any home-based health and safety issues to their employer?

  • Other considerations – Disciplinary and grievance procedures may need to be amended to reflect the fact that formal hearings can be conducted by video even after the pandemic. Also, some expenses policies (which have to date referred to claiming mileage costs between an office and certain locations) may need to be amended if employees are no longer starting those journeys from an office location. In addition, an employee may want to think about what home insurance requirements it wants to impose on an employee.

If you would like help with the legal aspects of managing remote working, please get in touch with Damian Phillips on 02920 829 126 or dphillips@darwingray.com for a free initial chat to see how he can help.

 

  

 

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