With the impact the pandemic has had on all businesses, it’s important to update your workplace policies to reflect these changes to working life so staff know where they stand, and so that you as an employer have provided necessary guidance about the new rules you expect them to adhere to. These policies will also likely provide a level of comfort to the workforce who will recognise the business is responding sensibly and proactively to the ongoing crisis.
This policy will look to address the ways the business has adapted as a result of coronavirus in order to reduce the spread of the virus and ensure the welfare of staff is maintained during any future outbreaks. Matters which you may want to include within this policy are:
• Amendments to the Sickness Absence Policy (e.g. to comply with Government guidelines for isolation)
• Amendments to the Flexible Working Policy (e.g. to comply with working from home requirements/ to address those wishing to isolate/ to assist those using public transport to adapt work hours
• Amendments to the Annual Leave Policy (e.g. to account for holiday while on furlough leave/ to allow additional carry-over if staff need to work due to covid-19.
FLEXIBLE WORKING POLICY
This policy will look to provide employees with greater flexibility in their working arrangements through being able to request changes to their regular and contractual work pattern. Matters which should be included within this policy are as follows:
• Examples of what flexible working changes can be requested by employees, e.g. changes to their hours, their days or their location of work
• Confirmation of who will be eligible to make a formal flexible working request (i.e. must have been employed for a period of at least 26 weeks/ cannot have made a flexible working request in the last 12 months). For those not eligible, there should be guidance as to how they can make an informal request
• The process for how an employee should make a flexible working request
• The factors the business will use to decide whether to allow the flexible working request, i.e. the eight business reasons which may lead to a rejection
• The process for how an employee can appeal the decision.
This will set the parameters of when the business will allow home working and any specific requirements. Matters which should be included within this policy are as follows:
• Examples of when working from home may be preferable/ permitted, including those roles which cannot work from home, if any
• The arrangements for working from home
• How to apply for home working and the factors considered in deciding if it is allowed
• Confirmation of what equipment will be needed and if this will be supplied by the business
• A reminder on data protection and confidentiality
• Links to the flexible working policy for if a permanent change is desired
•A reminder to comply with the Health and Safety policy and any additional considerations when working from home, e.g. not meeting customers at home, sticking to working patterns, etc.
Tina Chander is a partner and head of the employment law team at Midlands law firm Wright Hassall. She deals with contentious and noncontentious employment law issues, acting for employers of all sizes from small businesses to large national and international businesses, advising on all aspects of employment tribunal proceedings and appeals.