Acas working from home guidance: be ‘practical, flexible and sensitive’

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Acas has published new best practice guidance on working from home as more employers ask staff to avoid workplaces amid growing coronavirus concerns.

It says employers and employees should be “practical, flexible and sensitive” to each other’s situation during the period and emphasises that employers support their staff in adjusting to what may be a new way of working for them.

Acas chief executive Susan Clews said: “The coronavirus outbreak is impacting all of our working lives at the moment. The government’s public health advice is to work from home where possible to help prevent the spread of the virus within the wider community.

“Employers and staff who are following this advice may be home working for their very first time and unsure about their rights or how to best manage the situation.

“Our new advice offers practical advice around homeworking that includes managing staff mental health, handling childcare responsibilities and dealing with remote working systems.”

The guidance advises employers to:

  • consider individuals’ needs, for example anyone with childcare responsibilities, a long-term health condition or a disability
  • put the working arrangements that have been agreed in writing so that all parties are clear what is expected
  • consider which tasks can be done from home and avoid assuming that a role cannot be performed remotely
  • have conversations with employees about their working from home arrangements.

It is very unlikely that employers will be able to carry out a health and safety risk assessment at an employee’s home, but  the guidance says they should still support individuals’ health and wellbeing by checking that they have the right equipment to work safely; that managers keep in regular contact with their employees and make sure they do not feel isolated; and they make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.

They should also ask staff if they feel the work they are being asked to do at home can be done safely.

The Acas working from home guidance also offers support around employees’ responsibilities when working from home; how to support individuals’ mental and physical health;  providing equipment and technology; pay and terms and conditions; employees’ expenses; childcare arrangements; and any issues that arise through insurance, mortgage or rent agreements.

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