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There's no workplace like home – the legal concerns of homeworking

Luke Whitmore - Law on the Web

  1. 07 September 2015
  2. Business
  3. 0 comments
Man on laptop

With the flexible workforce of today, employers are increasingly allowing their workers to do their job at least partially from home. There are a number of benefits to this, but if you want to allow home-working you will also need to give consideration to various legal concerns.

Health and safety

Employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of all their employees as much as is reasonably possible regardless of whether they work in an office or from home.

This means you need to ensure that your employees are not exposed to unnecessary risk in their home when working . For example, if they are working on a computer you will need to check that they have a suitable workstation to sit at for long periods of time and that the electronic equipment they are using is safe.

To fulfil your obligations you should carry out a risk assessment of your employee’s home workspace and they should be given  the same advice on health and safety that you would give to office-based workers. Keep track of the environment they are working in to ensure that they are not exposed to unnecessary risks and make sure they carry out further assessments if anything changes. Ensure they make note of any accidents or injuries that occur in line with your responsibility to keep records of such incidents.

Remember to check that your employers’ liability insurance policy will cover employees who are working from home.

See our health and safety section for more on risk assessments and your duty of care to your employees.


While it’s reasonably straightforward to ensure security surrounding sensitive data within the workplace it can be more difficult when an employee is working from home. Whether it’s digital data or physical records, you need to make sure that confidential information is kept safe – it is still your company’s responsibility even if it is kept on an employee’s premises.

Ensure that any home-working employees are absolutely clear on data security procedures and responsibilities, and your company’s IT policies. Access to their computer and to the work network should be protected with passwords.

It’s generally best practice to supply the employees with a computer specifically for work use to avoid any security risks. Install a firewall and anti-virus software and be certain that the employee keeps these up to date.

Physical security is also an important point to consider. For example, if an employee keeps sensitive documents in their home, you need to consider whether or not there is adequate security in place. Bear in mind that even digital data could be physically stolen if their computer is taken.

You should make sure that their property is secure enough to store the documents and equipment they need to do their job, and that they have appropriate procedures in place for keeping these safe outside of working hours – for example, they should be able to lock important things away when they are not in use.

Contracts and documentation

If you have not offered home-working to employees before, you should make sure that your company’s documentation and paperwork are updated where necessary. For example, you may need to make changes to the employment contract if it specifies your firm’s office address as the place that work must be carried out.

Additionally, it is recommended that you make sure your employment policies are applicable to home-workers. You may need to broaden the scope of the policies and consider new situations that may not have arisen when your employees all worked in the office. It’s also more important that you make clear to home-working employees who they should contact in an emergency, as they will not be able to ask other employees if an unexpected event takes place.

Property restrictions

One thing that is often overlooked with home-working, particularly if it is simply a desk job, is that there may be restrictions on whether a person’s home can be used for business purposes. For example, this kind of usage might be ruled out by their tenancy agreement or the terms of the mortgage. If restrictions apply the employee may need to get permission to work from home. If an employee is meeting clients or manufacturing products in the property they are more likely to be in breach any applicable restriction and may also require planning permission to undertake this sort of activity.

Employees who work from home may also need to inform their insurance provider of the change of circumstances in their house. They should also find out if they will need to pay business rates instead of council tax on the part of their home used for business purposes.

While the responsibility for addressing these concerns fall on your employee rather than your company, you should still make sure they are aware of them and may want to help them with any issues they face as a result.

If you need more advice on the legal implications of home-workers, or any other business legal issue, we offer a telephone advice line for businesses that can help.

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