Hybrid Working – Impact on T&C’s and Allowances for Working from Home
Covid-19 has brought about a transformation in how we work. In fairness we had already seen some organisations move to agile or flexible working before the pandemic, but this description has now been replaced with hybrid or blended working.
Organisations need to think through the implications hybrid working on employee terms and conditions and the equipment staff need to work from home. Help has come from the Government and employers have been able to pay a tax-free sum without employees having to provide evidence of up to £6 a week or for the employee to apply to receive the tax relief from HMRC. However we have found that most companies have asked for employees to claim this amount via the HMRC scheme. There are some companies who have paid employees a work from home allowance of between £20 and £30 per month.
Within the housing sector we have typically seen organisations provide desks and chairs (with a financial cap of circa £250) and, where staff do not have a laptop, provide suitable IT equipment. However this does not address the issue of having a suitable workspace and there are some organisations providing loans for employees to improve their homes to allow working from home. In one case this was up to £10,000 interest free.
We have found that in our discussions with employers, hybrid working is here to stay as companies recognise employees want flexibility in how they work. Evidence suggests this in most cases is delivering payback through improved performance.
The new way of working has also brought about the need to review terms and conditions and we have already seen organisations start to grapple with the issues. This has included:
- Car allowances – as staff are not travelling to as many business meetings as previously and question whether payments need to be reviewed to reflect changes in working patterns;
- Health and safety and placing more emphasis on work station assessments and general health of employees;
- Contractual sick pay – there has been a noticeable drop in reported absences, but are problems being hidden which can include depression and how to support staff?, or staff working while sick? or making up hours when fit?;
- Working from home – making provision for staff to claim expenses e.g. what is allowed? and what is the work equipment that will not be provided?;
- Addressing expectations of staff to undertake blended working and what expectations will there be on staff to work from the office / home or both;
- Flexitime – is this now dead? and how will flexible working operate including staff being able to take time off?. This also raises issues of trust between managers and employees that staff have worked the hours stated.
To summarise there is a need for organisations to think through the implications of hybrid working and to develop policies which address this. To not do so will lead to confusion amongst employees, whereas clear policies communicated to staff can lead to improved staff retention, recruitment and morale.