Following the nationwide shift to remote working caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are considering introducing hybrid working for their workforce in the long term.
We outline below how you can introduce hybrid working to your business and some important issues you should consider.
What is ‘hybrid working’?
‘Hybrid working’ is a working arrangement whereby employees attend the workplace for part of the week but also work from home.
There is no set hybrid working model as each business will operate differently to best meet its own needs and objectives.
For example, the arrangement could be rather prescriptive and state the days that an employee will come into work and work from home.
Alternatively, a more flexible model could be adopted whereby employees are given the freedom to decide each day where they will work.
The pandemic has forced businesses to implement homeworking, and overall it has proven to be a successful working practice.
Previous misconceptions that employees would be unable to carry out their roles from home or that employees cannot be trusted to work productively without supervision have been debunked, with employers and employees alike experiencing the benefits of remote working.
Considerations before introducing hybrid working
If you are thinking about introducing hybrid working to your business, there are some things you should consider first:
- Is hybrid working a sustainable working model for your business in the long-term in both a practical and commercial sense?
- Is hybrid working suitable for all employees or just selected job roles?
- What type of hybrid working model will best suit your needs?
- Will you introduce hybrid working across your workforce or just offer it to employees who express interest?
Steps to introduce hybrid working
Once you have a clear idea of how you want hybrid working to operate in your business, you should go through the following process.
We advise following this process rather than simply introducing hybrid working through verbal agreement or extending any ad hoc arrangements made during the pandemic.
This will ensure that both parties understand the arrangement and there is no ambiguity, reducing the risk of issues or disputes arising further down the line.
Review employment contracts
Firstly, you will need to review the employment contracts to check the relevant place of work clause.
You will only be able to move an employee to hybrid working under their existing employment contract if the place of work clause is sufficiently flexible and includes a mobility clause.
A mobility clause enables you to make reasonable changes to an employee’s place of work, e.g. requiring them to work from home or from any other place within a reasonable distance.
Such clause will enable you to require an employee to attend the workplace on certain days and work from home for the remainder.
It is essential that you clearly communicate with employees, their representatives and managers about your proposed hybrid working model.
We recommend that you consult all affected employees to explain how hybrid working would work, receive employee responses and answer general queries.
You should then arrange one to one meetings between each employee and their manager so that their individual circumstances can be discussed.
As moving an employee to hybrid working will involve a formal change to their employment contract, you should define the arrangements in detail so that there is no confusion.
Some employees may be reluctant due to switch to hybrid working, for example if they do not have a suitable work set-up at home or if their mental health suffers from working alone.
You should suggest any adjustments that would assist the employee in working remotely, such as providing equipment or regular mentoring.
However, hybrid working is not for everyone and employees should still be able to attend the workplace full-time if this is the best option due to their personal circumstances.
Unreasonably requiring an employee to work from home against their wishes could amount to a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence between an employer and employee, creating a risk of constructive dismissal.
Make a variation to employment contracts
After the meeting, you should send a follow up letter formally outlining the proposed changes to the employee’s employment contract to allow for hybrid working.
The employee must sign the letter to provide their consent to the revised terms of employment and this will amount to a permanent variation of their employment contract.
Other issues to bear in mind
Expenses And Allowances
Unless the employment contract provides otherwise, employees who work from home cannot claim mileage expenses when they are required to attend the workplace.
There is no legal requirement for employers to offer an allowance to homeworkers to cover costs incurred through homeworking, such as additional electricity, heating and internet costs.
However, employees who work from home can claim tax relief from HMRC for additional household costs at £6 per week without providing any evidence of such costs.
Health and safety
As an employer, you are responsible for employees’ health and safety, even when they are working from home.
Therefore, it is important that you review the impromptu set-ups that employees have adopted to work remotely during the pandemic to ensure that they have suitable equipment and resources to safely work from home indefinitely.