29TH OCTOBER 2020
WORKING FROM HOME- CHALLENGES FACING EMPLOYERS
Most employers have now implemented working from home arrangements to some degree, which they might not otherwise have done were it not for COVID-19 and the restrictions implemented. This has proven to be an insightful exercise for some employers and has demonstrated that the need to physically monitor employees is not at the level they may have once believed necessary and that, in some cases, employees are working better at home than in the work place because of fewer distractions.
With any new working arrangement, there will be teething problems, and employers and employees will be faced with fresh dilemmas as they venture into these uncharted waters. Here are some of the recent examples we have seen employers face;
Some employers are reporting communication issues or delays when it comes to home working.
Employers should explain the importance and benefits of maintaining communication at the same standard as when employees were based within the workplace so as to avoid isolation and allow for cross fertilisation of views and learning through sharing information.
Incorporating this into company policies will ensure no employees feel that they are being left out or unsupported.
Communication is not just important for work matters; it is also important for team morale. Scheduling group meetings and encouraging communication will help employees continue to feel part of a team.
Whilst many employees are hitting their targets and standards to the level required, it would be amiss to say that this is always the case.
So, what can employers do if they suspect an employee is not working to the standards expected at home?
It is important that employees understand what level of performance is expected of them. If performance issues arise, it is important to establish the root of the problem, just as you would when the employee is at work. Take time to speak with the employee about the issues that are concerning you and explore with him/her what steps might be taken or support is required to bridge the gaps. Agree with the employee when might be a reasonable time to review the matters again and ensure to carry out a follow up review. Having tangible targets will help avoid any oversight of key issues. Remember, it may be beneficial sometimes to organise a physical meeting to discuss such issues rather than always remotely.
At this stage most creche’s and child minders are once again up and running, so there should be very few employees who are still struggling to get childcare in place. That being said, if employees are still experiencing this as an issue for them and so are juggling childcare whilst trying to work, employers have a couple of choices. Remind employees of their entitlement to family friendly entitlements such as Parental Leave, which is leave for the purpose of looking after children under the age of 12. However, this leave is unpaid leave, or Parents Leave, where the baby is less than a year, which is paid by the state.
There is no obligation on an employer to accommodate an employee who is unable to organise childcare or who is struggling to get their work done as a result, however, employers should behave responsibly and reasonably. Therefore, facilitating employees with a period of time to sort out alternative childcare would be advisable, albeit highlighting to the employee that the arrangement cannot be accommodated on a permanent basis and putting in place a deadline as to when the situation will need to be resolved.
Employers may also allow employees to use their annual leave or at the employer’s discretion to take unpaid leave.
WORKING FROM HOME ‘ABROAD’
As working from home becomes a new norm, talk of some employees selling their homes and moving to more affordable locations has started to stir. Some employees have also started to put forward the idea of moving abroad to work from home.
Employers need to consider these requests as there are some key factors to take into account;
Depending on how long the employee resides abroad, they may begin to accrue employment rights of that particular country and lose some of their entitlements in Ireland.
It is imperative that the employee and employer clearly agree in writing what are the key provisions of any working abroad arrangement.
Taxation and social insurance issues may also arise and employers would need to speak with their Tax Advisors prior to commencing any such arrangement.
Other factors to consider would include time zone differences and the impact that may or may not have on the employee’s ability to do the job effectively. Consideration should be given to GDPR implications. Employers would also continue to have a duty of care to these workers and would need to ensure adequate communication so that the employee feels supported in their role, as well as risk assessments. Policies should clearly state whether such a practice is or is not permissible and employers should be consistent in their approach. Employers are advised to continually update their Working from Home policies, addressing any key areas that require clarification.
FURTHER DETAILS ON THE UPDATE OR ABOUT OUR SERVICES MAY BE OBTAINED
JOHN BARRY/TARA DALY/ HUGH HEGARTY AT TEL: 01 8870690