Law guide: Employment

See how we helped Michael

"Fantastic! The legal document I used was so comprehensive and easy to complete. It is very reassuring to know my business now has this level of protection"

Michael S, London

Contractual issues

Contractual issues

Contents

Introduction

If teleworking is not part of the initial job description and the employer makes an offer to telework, then the worker may accept or refuse this offer. As with most initiatives teleworking is best introduced on the basis of consensus.

Employers are required to provide employees with a written statement of particulars of employment within two months of commencement. Teleworkers are entitled to a written statement under the same conditions as office workers. The place of employment must be included in these particulars and details of the teleworking arrangements should thus be incorporated.

Change in working practices

Where teleworking represents a change in working practices the employer has one month under Section 4(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (or article 36(3) Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996) from the date of change to produce revised particulars. It is thus good practice for the whole scope of contractual amendments to be detailed in the revised written particulars. After discussing the change with your employee, you should confirm the change to his/her contract of employment by using a confirmation of change to terms in a contract of employment document.

As part of its teleworking policy, the employer should make it clear that there is no intention to change the employee's status and the rights they are thus entitled to, unless both the employee and the employer wish to change the nature of the employment relationship in other substantive ways. Teleworking should not be used as a backdoor means of replacement of permanent jobs with freelance or temporary jobs.

Employment conditions

Particular aspects of a teleworker's contract which may need to be amended or specified are:

  • Place of work
  • Hours of work - greater flexibility, within the limits of the Working Time Regulations, may be possible, perhaps with a set 'core' times when remote workers undertake to be working or contactable. There may need to be an agreement on attendance at on-site team meetings. Equally, the employee needs to know on what basis the reporting manager and the other company personnel are contactable.
  • Extra responsibilities or duties - this may include procedures for reporting to the office
  • Expenses policies may have to be altered, for example, by allowing claims for expenses to attend team meetings or travel to the office for other reasons
  • For home-based workers- allowances for business rates, heating, lighting, wear & tear, etc., may be considered.
  • For home-based workers- access arrangements to the working area may need to be clarified. Health & safety requirements mean that an employer has a responsibility to assess the home workplace (e.g. for electrical power supply, safety of equipment, ergonomic use of equipment). This is not just confined to the computer and phone, it will involve considering the desk, chair, lighting, heating and general working conditions.
  • Provision of equipment by the employer - computer, smart mobile, provision of telephone line/broadband connection for work purposes. In some cases, the employee can provide equipment and be reimbursed.
  • Equipment and data security procedures, including back-up
  • Employer's insurance may need to be extended to cover work equipment not kept in the office, including equipment used on the move. Workers using their own equipment for work purposes should check whether such use is covered by their home insurance policy.
  • Procedure if the teleworker wishes to return to working in the office

Reversibility

Introduction

On the general principle that people should not be compelled to telework, those who do so should be able to change their mind if they find the arrangement to be unsatisfactory. This applies to workers who may dislike the isolation and to employers if productivity is suffering. Both sides should, however, consent to the changes.

Exceptions

In some cases, however, it may not be possible to reverse the decision to telework. For example, accommodation at the employer's premises may have been reduced as a consequence of the fact that employees are now teleworking. Similarly, the costs of reversal (added to the sunk costs of providing equipment for home working) may be too high.

Consequently, the circumstances in which a decision to telework cannot be reversed should be spelled out at the beginning in the individual's agreement (e.g. where the initial job description was for a home worker).