Remote work in the UK is on the rise and this brings a whole host of employment law issues for employers to address.
Remote Work & Health and Safety Obligations
First, employers have a legal duty to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees, including those work remotely. This obligation extends to conducting risk assessments of home workspaces to identify and address potential hazards. Employers should review risk assessments regularly to make sure their employees’ working environments remain safe and healthy. The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance on conducting home workstation assessments to mitigate ergonomic risks and promote well-being.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Remote work can impact employees’ mental health due to isolation, blurred work-life boundaries, and increased stress. Employers are responsible for their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing – both when they are in the workplace and when they work remotely (including working from home). The UK government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers guidance
on managing mental health in the workplace, emphasising the importance of communication, support networks, and risk assessments.
Data Protection and Cybersecurity
With remote work comes heightened concerns regarding data protection and cybersecurity. Employers must ensure that employees have secure access to company systems and data, implement robust cybersecurity measures, and provide training on data protection protocols. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) offers guidance on data protection obligations for working from home, emphasizing the importance of encryption, secure connections, and staff awareness.
Employment Contracts & Policies
We strongly advise employers to review and update employment contracts and policies to reflect remote work arrangements. This ensures the policy is comprehensive and carries significant weight and clarity on crucial matters such as:
- clarifying expectations regarding working hours;
- communication channels;
- responsibilities concerning health and safety;
- confidentiality of company and client information; and
- equipment provision.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) offers guidance on drafting effective employment contracts and policies for remote working.
Failure to align an employee’s desired remote work frequency with an employer’s office requirements
could potentially lead to tribunal issues. Mishandling instructions to return to the office, such as inadequate notice, may result in claims of constructive unfair dismissal by the employee.
Fair Treatment & Equality
Employers must ensure that remote work arrangements do not lead to discrimination or unequal treatment among employees. This includes addressing accessibility barriers for disabled workers, accommodating caregiving responsibilities, and promoting inclusivity in remote work practices. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides guidance on promoting equality and diversity in the workplace, emphasising the importance of proactive measures to prevent discrimination.
Right to Disconnect
With the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life in remote work settings, employers face challenges in respecting employees’ right to disconnect outside of working hours. While UK law currently does not explicitly recognize a right to disconnect, employers are encouraged to promote work-life balance and set clear expectations around availability and communication outside of standard working hours.
By addressing these employment law issues proactively, employers can navigate the complexities of
remote work while upholding legal obligations and promoting the well-being of their workforce.
Contact us today to guide your business through complex employment law challenges.
- Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – Guidance on home workstation
- UK Government – Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – Managing mental health in the
- Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – Guidance on data protection for remote
- Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) – Guidance on remote working contracts and
- Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – Guidance on equality and diversity in the workplace: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/your-rights-equality-and-law/your-rights-work