Below we highlight some of the key considerations arising from staff working from home:
There is no legal obligation to have a homeworking policy. Many HEIs will already have one but it should be reviewed to ensure that it is suitable in the current environment. If you don't currently have a policy, we would recommend that one is drafted and implemented soon as possible.
Most insurance policies will cover employees working from home but it would be advisable to check this to ensure appropriate cover is in place.
Working from home for a prolonged period is likely to be challenging and stressful for everyone involved. Appropriate support may include guidance on how to promote mental health and wellbeing and highlighting access to any online or telephone support services.
Methods of keeping in touch should be established and it may be helpful to expect staff to attend remote team meetings.
Staff should also be reminded of IT, communications and social media policies and consideration should be given to any aspects which need to be reinforced or varied to reflect the different methods of working.
The Information Commissioner's Office has issued clear guidance that data protection is not a barrier to increased and different types of homeworking, but HEIs will need to consider appropriate security measures.
Staff should be given clear information about the HEI's approach and expectations regarding online learning and how their personal data will be used.
Staff should also be given guidance on how to protect and look after confidential information whilst working from home.
It will be helpful for HEIs to provide some clarity for staff on the duties and responsibilities they are expected to discharge during this time and ensure that the requirements are reasonable, commensurate with their usual contractual obligations and recognise the new way of working.
It may be helpful to give some guidance on working hours and staff should be encouraged to take regular breaks, to ensure compliance with the Working Time Regulations and for their well-being.
Some members of staff may have childcare and caring responsibilities and consideration may need to be given to short-term flexible working arrangements.
Staff should be advised of the protocol for notifying you if they are unwell and unable to work.
HEIs should ensure that staff with ongoing health difficulties/other personal issues are still able to access the appropriate support as usual.
Your obligations to protect the health, safety and welfare of your staff and the health and safety of others affected will continue.
You should assess the particular risks posed by staff working from home. Although the HSE has said that there is no need for this to be done formally if only required on a temporary basis, given the prolonged lockdown, we recommend that you give staff the resources to assess their own workstation for suitability if they have not done so already.
Where a staff member identifies any health problems caused by working from home, eg anxiety or musculoskeletal issues, you should consider how you can support them to manage these difficulties.
You may find the following resources helpful in your planning during this period: