Working from home/'teleworking'

Teleworking (working away from the traditional office environment, usually supported by information and communication technologies) can be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Teleworking may be undertaken by any member of staff with the agreement of the department. It should be voluntary and, generally speaking, reversible at the department's or employee's request. It may be set up on a temporary or ongoing basis, and in either case it may be wise to set up a trial period.

Teleworking has implications for management of staff, and there are likely to be practical arrangements and some contractual changes as well. There is some general guidance on teleworking on this site, but departments should always take advice from HR Business Partners.

Will there be any changes to the employee's terms and conditions of employment?

  • Teleworkers have the same statutory rights as office-based employees.
  • Teleworkers should have the same workload and performance standards as office-based employees and should receive the same information and news as comparable office-based colleagues.
  • Teleworkers should have the same access to training and career development opportunities as comparable office-based colleagues. Specific training needs may have to be catered for, e.g. self-management and IT skills training.
  • Teleworkers have the same collective rights as office-based colleagues, including access to employee representatives and participation in elections.

Will the employee's letter of appointment need to be amended?

Teleworkers' letters of appointment may need to be modified in respect of:

  • Place of work
  • Working hours (departments may wish to consider allowing flexibility within set 'core' hours)
  • Expenses (policies may need to be altered to allow claims for expenses to attend meetings or to travel to the office for other reasons)
  • Home expenses (does the department intend to make contributions, for instance for a broadband connection and telephone bills?)

and it might be useful to specify some of the following issues in a schedule to the letter of appointment.

Will it be possible to try out the arrangements, and to terminate them if necessary?

Teleworking should be voluntary and, generally speaking, reversible at the employer's or employee's request. It may be set up on a temporary or ongoing basis, and in either case it may be wise to set up a trial period. The procedure for terminating or modifying the arrangements should be agreed in advance.

How can managers decide whether homeworking will suit an individual employee?

Employees should be aware that teleworking away from colleagues and the normal working environment may not suit everyone. Trial arrangements and termination agreements will ensure that a teleworker can return to the normal office environment if his or her work suffers as a result of working from home, but departments may wish to consider the following questions when deciding whether or not an individual would be suited to teleworking:

  • Does the employee have the self-discipline to cope with home working?
  • Can he or she cope with being isolated during the working day?
  • Is he or she self-motivated enough to concentrate on the task/project/paper and deliver the objectives?
  • Is he or she able to separate home and work life successfully both physically (by having a study or home office) and emotionally (by being able to screen out domestic distractions)? Does the employee's home provide a proper and sensible place for working? It would not for example be acceptable for an employee to be caring for small children while working at home.
  • Is he or she good at time and work management?
  • Is he or she a good communicator who will stay in touch with the workplace?
  • How will the department monitor his or her procedures, paperwork, or projects and conduct their PDR?

Who will provide and maintain equipment?

Where regular and frequent working at home is a requirement of a job it is reasonable that the employer should provide, install and maintain equipment, and pay for use of telephone lines.

The employer should ensure that data protection and security arrangements are in place, while the teleworker is obliged to take good care of the equipment and not use it unlawfully. However, where home working is not frequent and arrangements are made at the employee's request, he or she will save both travel time and costs and it is not unreasonable to expect that expense claims for minor costs will not normally be made.

Departments will need to consider each case individually, and should agree all matters concerning equipment, liability and costs before the arrangement starts.

Are teleworkers covered by the University's insurance?

Generally the University's insurance policies will cover university equipment while it is being used for work in an employee's home. These arrangements are subject to excess charges in the event of theft or damage and departments are advised to check with the insurance section web pages before making such arrangements. Items of equipment must be kept safe and secure at all times.

The teleworker should check whether his or her home insurance covers working from home and the use of any personal equipment that will be used for work. Home-working employees are covered by the University's liability policies for accident or injury where it can be established that the University is legally liable for the damages arising from such accident or injury.

Where it is intended that a teleworker will work overseas you must seek advice from the insurance section, the Payroll section, and HMRC regarding income tax.

How will data protection and information security rules apply?

There are unique problems of data protection for home workers, e.g. data may be accessed or accidentally destroyed by family members. Departments must ensure that teleworkers are familiar with and comply with the University's data protection and information security policies.

Whose responsibility is the health and safety of the employee?

The employer's health and safety obligations (and the duties of employees) extend to teleworkers. If working at home is to be both regular and frequent then it may be advisable to make arrangements to risk-assess the workstation and follow the University Occupational Health Service’s guidelines. Teleworkers should understand that they might need to give access to their home so that compliance with health and safety obligations can be ensured.

The incorrect use of computers can cause associated health problems such as musculoskeletal disorders, eye effects and fatigue or stress. The University has produced a web-based training program to further explain these risks and asks that you complete this training, before conducting an assessment of your specific computer or display screen equipment.

Please go to https://dse.ox.ac.uk/assessments/edit/25972 and follow the relevant links.

If home working is either occasional (for example a week to cover a dependent's recovery from illness) or regular but not frequent (say up to one day per week to alleviate travel difficulties) then this should not be necessary, although the employee should take breaks away from the workstation and be aware of any symptoms that might be caused by an inadequate workstation.

Specific care may have to be taken in relation to the health and safety of family members, neighbours and visitors to the teleworker's home.

Teleworkers must be required to report to the employer all equipment faults which may be a health hazard. Further advice is available from the Safety Office on working with display screen equipment at premises controlled by employees.

How shall we keep in touch? Can departments contact teleworkers at home?

Arrangements for attendance at the office and reporting to line managers should be set up and agreed. Teleworkers should only be contactable by phone or visited at the home within the agreed working hours or at other agreed times. Departments might consider supplying a separate telephone line for business purposes which can be switched to record messages outside of working hours.

How will working time, holidays and sickness be recorded?

Normal holiday and sick leave notification and recording arrangements must be followed and some departments may require the submission of timesheets.

Flexible working application

Formal applications to work from home should be considered under the University's flexible working procedures.