Working from home: pitfalls and solutions
Working from home: put the conditions on paper?
The Corona crisis has dramatically increased working from home. Partly at the instruction of the government. Working from home may well be “a keeper” because there are many benefits for the employer and the employee. To prevent arbitrariness within the organization, it is necessary to draw up a ‘working from home policy’. The home working policy describes the conditions and rules for working from home. In this way an unauthorized distinction between employees is prevented as much as possible. Although the Works Councils Act does not explicitly prescribe this, it is also advisable to submit the working from home policy to the works council for advice. The homeworking policy must then be communicated to the employees.
The employer is responsible for a safe working environment and therefore the employer is also responsible for the workplace at home. It is therefore advisable to have a home workplace created by the employee checked by an expert.
To confirm the conditions
The employer can record the agreements in a “working from home agreement”. This creates clarity and thus the employer can also demonstrate that the employer duty of care has been fulfilled. All kinds of practical matters can also be arranged in this agreement, such as the amount of any expense allowance or the mandatory login via a server. The following can be included in the working from home agreement:
- the employee’s data
- the days and times when the employee works from home and breaks
- accessibility by telephone, e-mail or chat – Teams, Zoom etc.
- possibly the specific activities that the employee carries out at home
- making available a laptop, extra screen, mobile phone, etc.
- possible compensation for the use of the home space and private equipment
- possible compensation for furnishing the home workplace, such as a chair, a height-adjustable desk, etc.
- agreements regarding checking the layout of the home workplace
- Occupational health and safety specific regulations such as chair, screen, keyboard
- prescribed participation in meetings or training at the office
- instructions for using the internet
- instructions for dealing with confidential data and login codes
- use of a digital diary
- control of hours and work performed
- consequences of violation of the home working agreement
- circumstances under which the agreement can be terminated
Flexible Working Act (WFW)
The Flexible Working Act (WFW) regulates (among others) that the employee has the right to claim home working. The legal threshold for rejection of such request by the employer is lower than for adjusting the number of hours to be worked, but the employer must seriously consider the request and can only reject it for good reason. These are the conditions:
- employee can submit a request 26 weeks after commencement of employment
- written request at least 2 months before the commencement date
- a request can only be made once a year
- written response from employer within one month
- a rejection must be discussed with the employee
For what reason can the employer reject working from home?
For example, a request can be rejected if the nature of the work or the person of the employee makes working from home impossible or undesirable. For example, it is necessary for a receptionist to be behind the reception. A commercial reason is not necessary, but the employer must have a good reason to reject a request to work from home.
Working from home has increased significantly and some of that increase is permanent. Employers who let employees work from home must invest in the workplace. After all, they remain responsible for a safe workplace. If an employee works from home occasionally – and then less than 2 hours – it is less of an issue, but if a day is worked from home every week, this is structural and the health and safety rules and regulations apply. The employer must then take measures and ensure that the workplace is in order and complies with the health and safety regulations. Use a working from home agreement to record the agreements. Involve the works council in formulating the home working policy.
The employer must also inform the home worker about the risks of working from home and instruct how these can be limited as much as possible. Furthermore, working from home should be part of the mandatory risk inventory and evaluation (“RI&E”). So keep an eye on the risks and act if the situation changes or requires it. Finally, it is necessary as employer to check whether the current insurance policies cover any damage incurred at the home workplace.