Returning to work and blended working hot topics – resources for employers


16th September 2020

Blake Morgan’s Employment and Data Protection teams recently co-hosted two key webinars for employers on the hot topics of Returning to Work and Blended Working, and recordings of both of these are available to download and watch for free.

With reports that nine in ten people who worked from home over lockdown would like to continue to do so in some form[1], our second webinar on Blended Working in particular received a large number of questions on the day, and the team took extra time to answer as many as they could on the spot.

Some of the key issues which came up which employers are facing at the moment are:

  • What process to follow when considering a change to methods or patterns of working (which may be driven by employers or requests from employees), and whether individual or collective consultation is recommended or legally required;
  • Whether and how contracts should be changed to reflect these changes;
  • How to deal with issues such as claims for additional costs of home working, or travel and parking costs and the possible impact on salary of changing working arrangements;
  • Data protection considerations including the risks of data breaches through blended working or working from home, the tricky issue of monitoring and what documents, technology and processes need to be in place;
  • Formulating a policy on managing employees remotely and training managers;
  • Updating existing policies such as disciplinary, grievance, sickness, health and safety, harassment, data protection and IT policies and preparing new policies (such as a homeworking policy) to reflect changes in working patterns;
  • How to manage returns to the workplace, particularly where there are employees with concerns and/or health conditions.

We have produced a summary of the most common questions and answers from the webinar which is available to download here.

In our first webinar of the series on 18 August, our panel of experts Paul Hayward (Employment), Holly Cudbill (Employment) and Jon Belcher (Data Protection) looked at the issues arising on staff returning to the workplace and the matters employers would need to consider, with Government advice now focussing on a return to the office – despite only relatively small numbers of office workers having actually returned so far. It included topics such as: What does a “COVID-19 Secure” workplace look like? Are risk assessments needed and if so, what risks should we be considering? Who should be asked to return to work and why? How do we communicate this request to our workforce and what should we do if they object? How do we manage a positive COVID-19 test in the workplace? Our team of experts were able to answer a number of questions at the end of the webinar and the recording can be downloaded here.

In our second webinar of the series on 27 August the panel discussed the highly topical issue of the move away from working in the office Monday to Friday to “blended working” or even employees working from home permanently. The team discussed issues such as: How can you deal with a request to change an employee’s work pattern? Can you refuse, and if so, what do you need to consider and are there risks? Do you need to change your employment contracts? How do you deal with data protection and security? How can you manage employees remotely? What are your health and safety obligations to home workers? Please download the webinar recording here.

The topic of “blended working” was particularly popular, with many delegates asking for a further webinar on a similar/related topic. In light of this, we will be holding another webinar in due course so please keep an eye out for this on our events page or sign up to our mailing list for legal updates and events here.

For more detailed advice or guidance on these issues, please do get in touch with our legal employment and data protection experts.

[1]Homeworking in the UK before and during the 2020 Lockdown

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