As an employer what potential issues can I open myself up to when allowing my employees to work from home?

Employees working from home

There may be many reasons why an employee is required to work from home and following the introduction of the statutory right for employees to apply for flexible working many are taking the opportunity to apply to their employers to be able to work from home.

What potential issues are there if I let an employee work from home?

The potential issues which an employer may open themselves up to when allowing an employee to work from home are the following:

  • Issues with data and data protection

  • Health and safety issues

  • Working time regulations issues

Issues with data and data protection

All employers must adhere to the data protection principles contained within the Data Protection Act 1998 with the 7th principle of the requirement for appropriate technical and organisational measures are taken to protect data from unlawful loss or disclosure is particularly important when allowing employees to work from home.

Employer remains the data controller

As an employer will have had to make full disclosures to the Information Commissioner concerning the company’s use of data the employer will be the designated data controller. This applies irrespective as to whether the data is located on a computer in the office or in the home of the employee. If there was any breach of the security of this data in the employee’s home then the employer would still be liable as the data controller.

What should I do in this situation?

As the 7th Principle requires appropriate measures to be taken this could include a visit to the employee’s home by the employer to check the security of the data.

Furthermore the firewalls from the office should also be installed onto the computer in the home of the employee. However, a way to ensure this is that if an employee wishes to work from home you can ensure that they use a company laptop which has an internet connection to the same network used in the office.

Transferring of data

In some circumstances an employee may wish to transfer data from the office to their office back at home – this will pose no problem when the information is held in soft copy as a computer file. However, in certain circumstances an employee may wish to remove physical files from the office. If there is any personal information contained in this files these should be hidden form sight if the employee is traveling on public transport.

This point should be made to all company employees through the staff manual as any accidental disclosure of the information could be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 leaving the employer as data controller liable.

Sensitive Data

Sensitive data is under more strict control under the Data Protection Act than normal data – extreme care should be taken by an employer when staff is dealing with sensitive data ensuring that the provisions contained in the act are adhered to.

Health and Safety Issues

Employer’s duty of care

Under the Health and Safety laws of England and Wales an employer is under a duty of care to take reasonable care to ensure that his employees are not subjected to any unnecessary risks of injury.

Despite an employee being out of the control and supervision of their employer when working from home this duty will still extend to an employee working from home. Therefore an employer must undertake various tasks to ensure that the working environment at the home of the employee is the same in terms of health and safety to that enjoyed by all employees when at the office premises.

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For more information on:

  • What things should I take into consideration when establishing an employees working environment at their home?
  •  Working Time Regulations