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Homeworking in a nutshell (For the employer)

The need for employers to offer more flexible working options is increasing all the time and within the market I specialise in, which is residential property it is becoming essential due to the distinct shortage of experienced conveyancers in the marketplace to think outside of the box.

According to a home working guide compiled by ACAS in 2014, which included data from the Trades Union Congress and the Office for National Statistics, the number of homeworkers had risen to more than four million. ONS figures showed a steady increase of 1.3 million from 1998 to 4.2million who spent at least half their work time using their home in 2014.  More than a third of these homeworkers were employees and this was predicted to increase.

In addition to the benefits to the employee, the win / win of the homeworking model can be seen by employers.

The benefits for the employer include:

Cost savings – Lower rent, business rates and utility bills when office space is decrease

Increased productivity - Output from employees working from home often improves due to fewer interruptions than in the office. There can also be greater commitment and loyalty from employees who value being able to work from home

Wider choice when hiring – Being able to recruit from a larger pool of talent because where potential employees currently live

More ideas - Attracting a more diverse workforce – including, for example, staff with disabilities or caring responsibilities – can bring the potential for a wider range of talent and innovation

Reputation – Being known as a flexible employer

Going green – Helping the environment by cutting down on commuting

There are of course considerations to take into account:

Management of staff – Supervising homeworkers can be more difficult than staff in the office. This requires trust.

Personal development – Homeworkers may become settled in a position and may not put themselves forward for opportunities without regular performance reviews to encourage development

Extra costs – Initially, there may be an outlay in setting up homeworking. However, savings from reduced workplace overheads could be greater in the long run.

Health & safety – The employer must take overall responsibility for assessing health and safety in the part of the home where the employee will work

Employees who are carers – Employers must be clear that homeworking is not a substitute for suitable care arrangements.  Dependents need to be looked after by someone other than the employee when they are working 6

Other factors to consider include whether the role needs:

Team-working – Teams don’t always have to be in the same location but they need to liaise and co-operate regularly but this can usually be done by phone, email contact and face-to- face meetings when required.

Supervision – Again, this can be done via telephone, email and there is also the option of technology such as video and tele-conferencing

Equipment – If technology is needed, it can be just as easy and cost- effective for the employer to install it at the employee’s home, unless this means duplication of equipment already at the organisation’s premises.

A question of balance

It is important for employer and employees to recognise that while homeworkers and office-based staff should all be treated consistently and fairly, there may be minor differences between the two.

For example, a homeworker might find it easier than an office-based worker to take a little time off to deal with the delivery of a new domestic appliance or doing the school run, simply because they are already at home. In contrast, an office-based worker may have a greater sense of camaraderie at work.

It is also important for an employer to be confident the pros and cons of being an office-based worker balance out against the pros and cons of being a homeworker and there is not a significant advantage or disadvantage in being one or the other.

ACAS research found a combination of office based & home working offered the best job satisfaction.

For more information, please contact Nicola O’Hanlon at BCL Legal.

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