Legal Q & A Teleworking – new DTI guidance

By Kaye Maguire, solicitor in people services at KLegal

More than 2 million employees in the UK currently use IT to enable them to
do all or part of their work away from their employer’s premises.

Acknowledging the growth in teleworking across Europe, a non-binding
framework agreement has recently emerged from Europe. The principles
established by the framework agreement are set in the UK context by new DTI
guidance, endorsed by the CBI and TUC.

Although entirely voluntary in nature, the guidance does offer a useful
checklist of the areas for consideration when establishing teleworking
arrangements. A few of the questions that businesses considering teleworking
arrangements should consider are highlighted below.

Q Apart from amending the place of work in the employee’s terms and
conditions, what else needs to be agreed in the contract when an employee
begins teleworking?

A As well as the work location, there are a number of items that
should be made clear in the contract, including arrangements for reporting in
to line managers/attending team meetings, agreement on the hours when an
employee will be contactable by the office, details of the costs that will be
met by the employer in respect of a home office, and any equipment that will be
supplied by the employer.

Q What about health & safety?

A The employer has a duty to consider the health and safety of
employees working remotely and will need to carry out a risk assessment of any
proposed home office (this may be through guided self-assessment by employees).
Employees are also under a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and
safety and that of others in their work environment. For home-based workers,
this may include members of their family and anyone who visits the home.
Employees are under a duty to report any hazards in their home-work environment,
for example, trailing electrical cables or inadequate lighting in the

Q Is there anything that needs to be done in relation to clients of the

A For most customers, it will be irrelevant where the person
providing service to them is located. However, where teleworkers have access to
work-based information containing personal data of clients and others, the
employer as data controller remains responsible for ensuring compliance with
the Data Protection Act 1998.

An area for particular concern with remote workers is safeguarding the
security of personal data.

The guidance highlights the main risks to privacy – theft of laptop
computers or other devices that store data, conversations overheard in public
places/information that may be ‘overlooked’ by a third party in a public place,
careless use of passwords, and flows of unencrypted data over the internet.

As well as developing a data protection policy for remote workers, companies
need to consider whether their IT infrastructure offers sufficient safeguards
for the data being processed.

Q What happens if an employee changes their mind about teleworking and
wants to come back to the office?

A This is a matter for negotiation between the parties, as a change
to the place of work constitutes an amendment to the contract of employment. It
may be advisable to agree a trial period at the outset, during which time
either party can terminate the arrangement if it is not working satisfactorily.

Quite often, employers who encourage teleworking make other changes to their
operations, such as seeking to reduce their overheads by releasing office space
that is no longer required. This may mean it is difficult to accommodate a
change from remote to office-based working and the employer may justifiably
refuse a request.

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