Lindsey Cartwright is a member of Morton Fraser’s employment law team based in the Glasgow office. She advises both employers and employees on a wide range of employment law issues, including unfair dismissal, compromise agreements, business reorganisations, redundancy, workplace discrimination and restrictive covenants.
She acts for clients at all stages of the employment relationship and regularly represents clients in the Employment Tribunal and EAT across the UK.
Lindsey is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association and a Licentiate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.
Morton Fraser is a leading full-service law firm working with large multinationals, the public sector and not-for-profit organisations across Europe.
We are delighted that Lindsey will be answering your questions here each month.
I run a small company which employs ten people. One of my employees has asked if she can work from home. I have spoken to the other directors and it is something that we are considering but we are unsure about how it will work out and whether or not it is going to be unduly onerous for us as a business. We don’t have massive resources to spare and are torn as to whether we should be considering it at all. We are worried that everyone else will want to do the same and we’ll end up in a situation where we can’t work out who is doing what and where. Help!
The first thing you need to consider here is whether or not the employee has made the request because of caring responsibilities (whether for a child or an adult) or whether or not she has asked for it as a lifestyle choice. There are rules about requests for flexible working where they are being made for the purpose of carrying out caring responsibilities and there are set procedures that you have to follow. You don’t have to allow the request, but you do have to follow the procedure (including a set timetable) and there are only a limited number of grounds on which you can reject the request.
Assuming that the request has been made as a lifestyle choice, if you were to grant it, then you would need to take some preparatory steps. First you should carry out a risk assessment for health and safety purposes and make sure that she has all of the necessary equipment at home. Secondly, check your insurance arrangements, as these may not currently cover home workers. She should also check her home insurance to make sure that it covers any accident arising from her working from home. Thirdly, check with your accountants about any expenses claims that she might make and the tax consequences of these. Make sure that you discuss this with the employee so that she knows what she can and cannot claim for – it is always best to agree these things in advance so that expectations are realistic. Lastly, think about how she will be managed – sometimes employers underestimate the value of the day to day contact that employees have with their team. Home working can be isolating, so steps should be taken to ensure that contact is maintained. All of this could be incorporated into a Home Working Policy for the company, again, so that expectations are being managed.
None of this should be too onerous and once done, you will be in a position to do it much more easily next time, if you do receive another request. There are a number of advantages to allowing home working, including increased motivation, increased productivity, retaining skills of people who might be tempted to look elsewhere and increased adaptability. You may even manage to reduce your overheads, particularly if it is successful and others follow suit.
If you are still uncertain, why not have a trial period and see how things go from there. Have a review meeting in 3 months time and find out what has worked well and what has not and see whether or not there are any changes that can be made so that the arrangement is more successful for both your company and your employee. Don’t be shy about keeping it under review thereafter so that both of you can fine-tune the arrangement if necessary. If it is working out well though, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t make it a permanent change to the employee’s contract. You can consider writing in some flexibility for the company when you do that.
If you would like to ask Lindsey a question relating to your employment or a problem being faced in your organisation, please email your question to us at email@example.com