Understanding remote working clauses and why you need them

Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been an enormous shift towards remote working. Working remotely has allowed many employees to eliminate their daily commute and, in turn, increase their quality of life.

The impact of remote work has resulted in two distinct patterns: full-time remote work and hybrid working arrangements. While some individuals have embraced a fully remote lifestyle, others have adopted a hybrid model, dividing their time between the office and home.

Notably, remote work has emerged as a critical factor in the ongoing battle to attract top talent. Prospective candidates now view working remotely as more than a mere perk. It’s become a non-negotiable or decisive factor influencing their choice of a new role.

This is all relatively new ground for many employers. Whether they’re handling the subject of remote working for existing or new employees, employers must understand the legal implications and adopt appropriate approaches when structuring employment contracts.

In this article, we delve into the essential clauses that should be incorporated into employment contracts for remote-working employees. These clauses not only address the unique considerations of remote work but also ensure clarity, accountability, and a mutually beneficial working relationship between employers and employees.

Establish trial periods

Consider whether a trial period for the remote working arrangement is appropriate. If you decide so, a suitable clause should be included, detailing the length of the trial and how it will be approached, including what notice must be served on the employee to terminate the arrangement in cases where it hasn’t worked out. Trial periods can be good if you or the employee doubt whether the arrangement will succeed.

Company Equipment

Make clear which equipment belongs to the company and outline how you plan to service, maintain and insure it and any steps the employee may need to take in that regard. The clause should also state that the equipment should be returned at the end of the remote working arrangement or upon the termination of their employment.

Health and safety when working from home

The contract must state that the employee should comply with the terms of your health and safety policy whilst working from home and that they still have to report any accidents to you. 

In addition, as an employer, in a similar way as you’d for office-based employees, you should also undertake health and safety risk assessments for remote employees.

Right to enter and home visits

To ensure necessary actions can be taken when needed, it’s recommended to reserve a contractual right allowing the employer to enter the employee's home, provided that it’s done at reasonable times and with reasonable notice. This provision would cover the following situations if required:

  • Installing, inspecting, replacing, repairing, maintaining, or servicing company equipment
  • Conducting health and safety risk assessments
  • Recovering company equipment if the employee fails to return it to work

Property covenants and employee property restrictions

You may include a clause requiring the employee to confirm that no restrictions on their property prevent them from working from home.

Confidentiality and data protection

As you’ll appreciate, remote employees must take particular care to protect your organisation’s data from unlawful access.

You’ll need to include detailed legal clauses requiring the employee to take preventive measures to prevent unlawful access. This may include using (and regularly changing) passwords, locking their computer when not in use, ensuring nobody else at home uses the computer, keeping confidential papers in locked filing cabinets, and shredding any such documents when no longer needed.

It’s also essential that your employee reports any data security breaches to you promptly so that, as a business, you can take urgent steps to mitigate any harm that may result.

Wrapping up

As remote work reshapes the employment landscape, employers must adapt and optimise their employment contracts accordingly.

By incorporating the recommended clauses outlined in this article, employers can foster a successful and harmonious remote work environment, benefiting both their organisation and remote-working employees.

Seeking assistance from legal professionals like LawBite can provide expert guidance in drafting comprehensive clauses that protect the employer and the employee.

By understanding and incorporating these clauses with the assistance of legal professionals, employers can navigate the complexities of remote working, attract top talent, create a productive environment for their remote workforce.