Employer responsibilities remain during lockdown

It is worth reminding employers that, even in these difficult times, they continue to have legal obligations to their staff – they are still the employer. We provide guidance on what you can and can’t ask an employee to do:

Asking an employee who can work from home, to do so would be regarded as a lawful instruction and should not give rise to any problems, even if there is no specific provision in an employee’s contract of employment to allow for this.

However, if an employee does raise concerns about working from home, then the employer is expected to listen to what they say and address any concerns. If these are justified, then consider what alternative arrangements might be feasible.

Some businesses which are restricted in terms of home working, are splitting teams so they work at different locations – closing down some and operating out of fewer sites. Employers which require employees to work from an alternative site will need to consider the personal impact this might have, particularly if the contract of employment does not make allowances for working from a different site.

If the change in location is likely to be for a fairly limited period then this will make a request that an employee works elsewhere entirely reasonable. However, if the new location means the employee is having to travel a significant distance or if they will struggle to manage childcare because of the new work location, it is vitally important to listen to concerns and be flexible with start and end times, for example.

Where staff are working from home or from a different location, remember that there is still a duty of care for health and safety and if any employee uses specific equipment – for example, a particular office chair or an adapted keyboard, arrangements for the equipment to be transported to their home or new location may be required.

Also consider:

  • If you have a home working policy, make sure that employees are familiar with it.
  • GDPR obligations do not disappear because of Covid-19. Consider what steps or restrictions need to be put in place to protect personal data that is being taken offsite.
  • If you require employees to use their own devices, such as PCs and tablets, ensure that confidentiality statements are in place to protect data.
  • Consider what supervision will be put in place to manage employees remotely.
  • Consider if there is a need to provide employees with stationery, paper and printer ink. Consider how you will reimburse employees for expenses; for example, telephone bills, postage.


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