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Connectivity – employees working from home challenges

Posted: 17 March 2021

As Lockdown 3 continues, many of us who previously wouldn’t be, are still working from home juggling everything from zoom calls and the daily to-do list to wellbeing and exercise.

For those affected, the working day is now spent in the same place as out of work hours, or at least within the same building. So amongst the general challenges that are, to an extent, within our control; what happens when the unavoidable occurs that prevents effective working?

In this blog, we explore some of the issues associated with connectivity that may arise with employees working from home where there is no legal precedent in respect of the employment law position. 

If an employee’s home broadband fails meaning they can’t work, what can an employer do?  Can they refuse to pay the employee, insist they take holiday or do they have to pay the employee even though they can’t work? Currently there is limited clarity in respect of the law around these situations.

The employer isn’t under an obligation to pay the employee in these circumstances so the employee may prefer to take holiday rather than lose pay. However, in practice, given the exceptional circumstances at the moment it would be good practice for an employer to be sympathetic, depending on the length of time the employee’s internet is down for.

In the case of moving home and no internet set up yet, it would be expected for an employee to take annual leave until their internet is set up or make arrangements so that they have access to it to carry out their work.

If the employer’s office is open then they would normally be entitled to insist on the employee attending the office, because they’re no longer able to work from home they should be legally entitled to travel. But this is dependent on the office being Covid-19 secure and any individual characteristics of the employee which might make this unreasonable, for example, if they’re particularly vulnerable.

As long as the employee makes every effort to get back up and running as soon as possible, then they should be given the opportunity to make the time up in the future – particularly taking into account that a lot of employees will no longer spend time commuting to and from work. 

Given the unique situation in which we find ourselves, many employers will be faced with new situations where it can be difficult to make a decision and the law is undeveloped in these types of scenarios so it could be down to moral judgement. To help navigate the law in these challenging times, employers may have access to free and unlimited legal advice as part of their legal expenses policy they can access so it will be worth checking this in line with the policy terms and conditions.

Disclaimer: this article is for information purposes only and should not be relied upon on any points of law.