Hybrid Working: 13 Policy Essentials

In today’s tight labour market, many candidates won’t even consider a role unless hybrid working is on the table, while those at organisations with inflexible policies pose a flight risk. In EY’s 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, 47% of respondents said they would consider leaving their current employers if hybrid working was not offered.

There are countless benefits to introducing workplace flexibility - improved work-life balance, cost savings from cutting commutes and downsizing office space, higher productivity etc. But unless you design a clear framework outlining the scope of your policy, you risk creating false employee expectations and potential disputes. 

Here are 13 essential clauses to include in any hybrid working policy to ensure expectations are managed and discrepancies avoided:

A definition of what ‘hybrid working’ means

It’s important to explain exactly what you mean by ‘hybrid working’, as the term can mean different things to different people. 

For example, are there certain days staff must be in the office? Will this be the same for everyone, decided at a departmental level or left to individuals to decide for themselves? 

Guidance on who the policy applies to

If your policy does not apply to every employee, specify which roles are eligible for hybrid working, and which are not. Or, make clear that you’ll decide on a case-by-case basis. 

Eligible and ineligible locations

Consider where staff can and can’t work from, and make this clear in the policy. 

For example, does remote working mean employees can only work at their home addresses, or can they work elsewhere (e.g. at a second home or hotel/rental)?

If staff are allowed to work in public places (e.g. cafes or shared spaces), consider any extra security/confidentiality measures needed.

International remote working is different and complex – be sure you understand the legal and tax risks before agreeing to it.

Flexibility clauses

You don’t know what the future holds. Build in some flexibility to change things if you need to. 

E.g. You may want to say that managers can still ask staff to attend the office on days they would normally be working remotely, if there are good business reasons to do so and reasonable notice has been given. 

Trial periods

If your organisation is new to hybrid working, then it may be sensible to state that hybrid working is being trialled for a finite period and a management decision as to whether to continue will be made in due course. This will ensure it is compatible with business needs. 

Obviously, you can’t keep a trial going indefinitely. But you may want to tweak the arrangements to overcome any difficulties identified. It will be much harder to row back if staff think that hybrid working is set in stone. 

Third parties

Those working remotely from home, for whatever proportion of time, should be required to check and confirm that there will be no issues with this with their mortgage provider, landlord or home insurer. Employers also need to check that their insurance will continue to cover those working away from the office on a regular basis.

Employer contact

Will you guarantee a minimum amount of contact with remote working staff from their managers? Will individuals be expected to contact their managers at certain times of the day/week? Avoiding stress and anxiety caused by isolation is likely to be a requirement of an employer’s health and safety duty.

Availability and responsiveness

Be clear about when employees will be expected to be available when working remotely – a blanket 9-5 work requirement? Or will employees be able to set their own schedule, perhaps within core hours? Do you need to include specific rules on response times?

Equipment and expenses

Specify clearly:

  • What equipment you will provide, and what equipment individuals will be expected to provide themselves.
  • Any speed requirements for individuals’ internet services.
  • Whether individuals can expense paper, printer cartridges, and anything else they reasonably need to do their job.
  • What support individuals can access if they encounter tech difficulties at home - will you provide a tech support service?
  • What allowances you will pay (if any) to those working at home in respect of broadband, electricity, and heating costs.
  • How you will ensure that your workers have a safe and comfortable work setup - what workstation assessment will workers be required to take, and how often should they assess their workstations etc.

Data protection and confidentiality

Data protection and confidentiality issues need to be comprehensively addressed as there is significant legal risk of breach by remote working staff if they are not adequately trained and informed in this area.

Be very clear about the information security measures you expect staff to follow when working from home, or another location. For example, that a personal email must never be used for work matters and that waste is disposed of confidentiality.

You may want to state that some roles may only be able to be done from home or a dedicated space where phone calls can be made confidentially or where there is a lockable filing cabinet.

Holiday

What happens when employees go on holiday? Set out their obligations to secure work equipment and data at home.

Collection of equipment

Set out the rules for the collection of work equipment and ensuring that all confidential information and personal data is wiped / returned.

Measures to mitigate discrimination risk

If staff can decide whether (or when) to attend the office, you may end up with different groups working differently. Surveys have shown that women, those with a disability, those with caring responsibilities, and younger workers all prefer home working, while older men prefer to be in the office. 

This raises a potential discrimination risk. 

It is therefore advisable to make clear that no one will be discriminated against in terms of their pay and promotion prospects by not working full-time in the office. Of course, you need to think through the practicalities of monitoring this.

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LegalEdge’s HR Legal Counsel Service focuses on providing strategic and commercial legal support and advice that supports business growth and objectives. To discuss any of the above, or your employment contracts and HR policies and processes, email info@legaledge.co.uk.