Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer businesses and workplaces

Guidance for businesses and workplaces on reducing the risk of COVID-19 and supporting staff and customers.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer businesses and workplaces
Working from home

Working from home

Supporting people to work from home where possible is an important part of complying with the requirements of the coronavirus legislation.

From 17 December 2021, by law, businesses, places of worship and service providers must take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus. Supporting employees to work from home where possible, is an important part of that.

Working from home may require more flexible arrangements to take account of any circumstances within the home that may impact on the worker.  Flexible working relates to an organisation’s working arrangements in terms of the time, location and pattern of working.

Further information and support can be found at the following resources:

Equality, mental health and wellbeing considerations

During the pandemic, and while public health stipulates that certain people are at higher risk, they should be central to an organisation’s working from home policy.

Consideration should be given as to whether any particular measures or adjustments are required to fulfil duties under the equalities legislation and supporting those with protected characteristics. The requirement to make reasonable adjustments applies when working remotely as it does in the workplace, to avoid disabled staff being put at a disadvantage.

Creating a safe and welcoming environment, where everyone is respected and valued, should be of upmost importance to businesses and service providers. Working remotely can however make some individuals feel vulnerable, socially isolated and affect their wellbeing and mental health.

The following sources of information may be of use:

Workstations and equipment

Businesses are responsible for providing appropriate equipment that is suited to the tasks and environment, and encouraging staff to use them as safely as possible.

Consideration should be given to what systems need to be accessed, by whom and if they can be accessed remotely. Also the level of IT support available at home, and if the IT network has capacity to support the number of staff who will be working from home. Businesses should be mindful of workers’ individual circumstances e.g. socio-economic constraints that their workers may face in setting up equipment and IT, as well ensuring software packages and platforms used are fully accessible for disabled workers.

Businesses must protect their workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment. This applies to workers who use a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) daily, for an hour or more, and also includes home workers.

Advice on DSE at home  is provided by HSE as well as the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF). CIEHF also provide information on mobile working.

Businesses and service providers may wish to take advantage of schemes such as the Scottish Digital Development Loan and the DigitalBoost programme  which are both aimed at improving the digital capacity of organisations.

Working from home creates unique cyber security challenges and risks that must be appropriately managed.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have produced guidance on the steps employers should take when introducing (or scaling up the amount of) home working.  

Communication

Businesses should have clear and regular communication with staff, using fully accessible channels to reinforce key messages, especially when part or all of the workforce is working from home.  The physical and mental health of staff should still continue to be supported while they work at home.

Businesses should update staff on workplace developments and ensure workers feel supported, while staff should make sure they are able to communicate any issues they are having while working from home with their manager.

Working hours

Businesses should be mindful of the issue of overworking, and all businesses should support staff to set clear boundaries between work and home-life.

For some staff, particularly those with caring commitments, the times at which their hours are worked may need to vary but businesses should be mindful of the legal requirements for rest breaks:

  • at least 20 minutes break during each working day lasting longer than 6 hours
  • time period between stopping work one day and beginning the next is not less than 11 hours
  • have at least one complete day each week when no work is done

Businesses should ensure that their staff take their contractual paid leave if they wish – notwithstanding circumstances where people cannot travel – in order to comply with Working Time Regulations paid leave entitlements, and ensure rest and employee wellbeing.

Businesses should have clear and established boundaries around the use of communication after an individual has worked their contracted hours.

Expenses and finances

Members of staff may find that working from home can affect an overall change in financial circumstances. Working from home may result in an increase in utilities’ costs like heating and lighting, while saving on other costs such as commuting costs like public transport and fuel.

Additional costs are expected to be covered by the business or service providers and staff should be aware of the policies in place to cover additional costs.

Businesses and service providers may find it beneficial to check the HMRC guidance on working from home allowances to check which expenses can be paid without incurring a tax liability in relation to who are working from home due to coronavirus. 

Businesses and service providers should ensure their insurance covers them for staff carrying out their role from home. Individual staff should also ensure there are no issues with them working from home with their own home insurer, mortgage provider or landlord.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI)  provides advice and guidance to support those who are continuing to work from home.

Individuals on a low income and in immediate financial need can apply to their local authority for help from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Home Energy Scotland can provide impartial energy efficiency advice, and advice to consumers on how to keep their home warmer and more affordable to heat and Government-funded domestic energy efficiency schemes.


Contact

Email: DLECONPSWT@gov.scot

First published: 23 Dec 2021 Last updated: 20 Jan 2022 -