The Trivium London Consulting HR team have seen an increase in queries on hybrid working in recent months. 

You want to be an employer of choice; flexible and inclusive. You have a flexible working policy – you may even have a separate hybrid working policy – but you are now facing further challenges. Below we have answered a few of the common queries we have received:

1.     If my employees are saving on certain costs by homeworking, can we give them a pay cut?

Reduction in costs is not a valid reason for unilaterally imposing a pay cut but, generally speaking, as long as an employer and employee both agree, this can be done. Firms need to be mindful of the potential for claims arising from indirect sex discrimination and as always it depends on the individual circumstances.

2.     What about part-time employees and hybrid working?

Unless there is an objective justification, part-time employees have the right to the same hybrid opportunities as their full-time counterparts. Where home working is permitted for a certain number of days, this can be prorated for part-timers but, again, there may be potential for indirect sex discrimination claims.

3.     My staff won’t come back after so long working at home as they are comfortable with their current pattern of working, what can I do?

Just because employees were following a government mandate does not create a permanent contract variation. However, it’s possible that a firm might have said or done something, however unintentionally, which might imply a permanent change eg moving to a smaller office. So be sure of the circumstances before insisting that their contractual workplace is still the office.

4.     What about health and safety risk assessments at home?

Employers must ensure that the risk assessments they are required to carry out in relation to their employees includes those working at home. This includes those scenarios where they only work part of the week at home.

5.     Do I have to pay for home office equipment?

Most employees have laptops so this is about equipment that may make working from home more comfortable. There is no legal requirement to provide this but if homeworking is at the firm’s request, the argument to provide equipment that supports DSE assessment compliance is stronger. As you will no doubt be aware a display screen equipment assessment for workers is a legal requirement whether they are working from home or in the office.

6.     What about childcare during homeworking?

It isn’t the firm’s business to delve into the details of an employee’s childcare arrangements; however, it does have a legitimate concern that the quality and quantity of work is not negatively affected. Working around home activities, including childcare, will depend on the type of role, hours, flexibility etc. but, as above, there is the potential for sex discrimination claims (both direct and indirect) arising from objections by the employer that cannot be reasonably justified.

So, there are still many questions around hybrid working and it will take years of case law to produce legal rulings. If you have any queries on this subject or need DSE online training setting up please email hr@triviumlc.co.uk.