Homeworking implementation guidelines for applicants and managers

Oxford Brookes is committed to promoting and practising equal opportunities in employment. This includes giving employees, wherever practicable, the opportunity to work more flexibly. Homeworking is also advocated in the University Sustainable Travel Plan 2006 -2010 as a way of reducing our overall carbon emissions. Requests for home-working will be considered in relation to any job role that may be carried out equally on site or from a remote location, usually the employee’s home. It is evident that some roles do not lend themselves to any form of homeworking as they can only be carried out on site. In some roles (e.g. academic staff) working at home is already common practice, and should be managed on an informal and ad hoc basis.

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a framework within which employees and management can agree arrangements for working at or from home. The guidelines must be read in conjunction with the flexible working policy (homeworking). These guidelines are not intended to be prescriptive; however there are certain fundamental principles which must apply and which should be understood by employees and their managers.

1. Definitions of homeworking

The University is willing to consider the following models of homeworking, depending on the circumstances of the role and operational requirements.

Occasional homeworking. Applies to employees who, with the approval of their line manager, work at home on an occasional and ad hoc basis (i.e. where there is no agreed pattern of homeworking), even though their contract of employment requires them to be based at Oxford Brookes University.

Regular homeworking. Applies to employees who have a regularly pattern of working at home agreed with their line manager (e.g. once a week or once a month) even though their contract of employment requires them to be based at Oxford Brookes University.

Designated homeworking. Applies to employees who work from home (their office is based in their home) even though they may work other than at home for part of their working hours. Becoming a designated homeworker involves a change in the contract of employment to reflect the new work location.

2. General guiding principles

The guidance below applies to all categories of homeworkers. Further guidance applying to support staff and academic staff can be found in sections 4, 5 and 6.

  • The interests of employees who are not working at or from home will be protected at all times. E.g. no employee will be expected to incur an increased workload due to colleagues working from home.
  • Employees working at or from home should not suffer a detriment financially, in terms of job satisfaction or career prospects.
  • Employees working at and from home must adhere to all university policies in the same way as office based employees.
  • Employees working at or from home must be contactable by telephone by their line manager or departmental head.
  • Employees working at or from home will not be entitled to claim travel expenses from home to the University.

3. Guiding principles for line managers

Line managers should take into account the following when assessing any requests to work at or from home.

  1. The suitability of the job/work task.
  2. The suitability of the home (risk assessment).
  3. The capability, personality and role development needs of the applicant.
  4. The home environment (e.g. will anyone else be in the home when the employee is working, do they have caring responsibilities, etc.)
  1. The suitability of the job/work task

    Working at or from home will only be possible where appropriate work is available. Considerations as to suitable work might include:

    • Whether the job involves the handling, processing or creation of information, rather than the delivery of a service that needs to take place on site (e.g., working as a receptionist, maintaining buildings or equipment etc.)
    • Whether the employee can access required information easily and quickly from home.
    • Whether the output of the work to be done from home can be clearly defined and monitored.

    An employee working at or from home may be expected to provide evidence of the work which has been carried out. If it is felt necessary by their line manager, staff may be required to revert to their previous working arrangements

  2. The suitability of the home
    • Health and Safety requirements will apply to the employee’s home whenever it is being used as a work base.
    • All staff working at or from home will need to have a risk assessment undertaken. Regular and occasional homeworkers may complete the self-assessment form. Designated homeworkers must have a home visit (see further guidance in sections 6 and 9).
  3. The capability, personality and role development needs of the applicant

    Suitability for homeworking should be considered with regard to:

    • The ability of the applicant to deliver work effectively without supervision.
    • Self-motivation, self-discipline and possession of good time management skills.
    • Clarity of requirements, deadlines and objectives with feedback.
    • The suitability of the applicant to work successfully in a potentially isolating environment.

    Individuals and managers should jointly review and monitor the impact of time spent working at or from home. Any problems arising from working at or from home must be discussed by the individual and their line manager. If no suitable solution can be found the employee will be required to revert to their former working arrangement.

  4. Home environment
    • The employee must consider the potential impact of homeworking on their home environment.
    • The University understands that employees may want to work from home because of caring responsibilities. Rather than being prescriptive over the sort of responsibilities that are suitable for homeworking and those that are not employees are expected to discuss any caring responsibilities with their line manager and demonstrate how they are going to manage the joint responsibilities of work and caring.

4. Occasional and regular homeworking - support staff

Occasional and regular homeworking applies to employees who, with the approval of their line manager, work at home on an occasional, ad hoc, or regular basis even though their contract of employment requires them to be based at Oxford Brookes University.

General guidelines

  • There is no absolute right on the part of any employee to work at home. All such work practices will be reviewed regularly by the employee’s line manager and, if necessary, the member of staff will be required to revert to their former working arrangement.
  • Employees wishing to work from home either occasionally or regularly must complete Homeworking application form A. This form need only be completed once, but in all instances there must be signed agreement from the employee’s line manager and approval from the relevant Dean or Director. Line managers should return all completed forms to their link HR Manager.
  • Working at home will not be recognised as such unless agreed with the line manager.
  • Enough notice of a wish to work at home must be given to enable the employee’s line manager to ensure that the working of the team or department will not be adversely affected.
  • Specific work activities must be undertaken.
  • Frequency and duration of working at home must be agreed with the line manager.
  • Once there is an agreement that an individual is to work at home for a part of a day, a given day, or given period of days, the arrangement will be respected as far as possible. However, in an emergency, employees working at home must be prepared to be recalled to the office at short notice.

Equipment and Workstation

  • Employees working at home on an occasional or regular basis will normally be expected to provide their own equipment and workstation. Where access to Brooke’s services not generally accessible from offsite is needed (e.g. finance systems) please contact computer services for details of required equipment.
  • Employees working at home on an occasional or regular basis are expected to bear the cost of telephone calls and any increase in domestic bills such as heating and electricity.

Risk assessment

  • Before any agreement for occasional and regular homeworkers can be made a risk assessment of the homeworking environment must take place. Occasional and regular homeworkers may undertake a self-assessment using appendices 1 to 4 (risk assessment forms). Where required the University Safety Officer will provide guidance to enable employees to undertake the assessment.
  • It is the responsibility of the line manager to ensure that a copy of the forms is given to the employee and to review the completed forms to ensure that the homeworking environment conforms to health and safety guidelines.
  • All forms should be returned to the employee’s line manager. If the line manager has any concerns as to the suitability of the home environment they should contact the University Safety Officer. Where homeworking has been agreed completed forms should be forwarded to the link HR manager and stored on the employees personnel file.
  • Regular homeworkers should provide a digital photo of their workstation to support their self-assessment. The photo should be returned with the self assessment form to their line manager.
  • The University may, in some instances, require the risk assessments undertaken at the employee’s home to be carried out by the University Safety Officer or a trained representative of the School/Directorate.
  • If the employee moves to a different home address they must inform the University and the suitability of the new work location must also be assessed.
  • It is the responsibility of the employee to notify the University of any other circumstances that could impact on the safety of the home working environment.

5. Occasional and regular homeworking - Academic Staff

Occasional and regular homeworking applies to employees who work at home on an occasional, ad hoc, or regular basis even though their contract of employment requires them to be based at Oxford Brookes University.

  • Existing custom and practice means that, for academic staff, the process of making a request to work from home on an occasional or regular basis may be managed on an informal and ad hoc basis. However the University has a duty of care towards all its employees and must ensure they are working within an environment that meets health and safety guidelines.
  • For this reason all academic staff who work at home on a occasional or regular basis must complete a self-assessment of the home working environment using appendices 1 - 4 (risk assessment forms). It is the responsibility of the employee’s line manager to ensure that the forms are made available and completed.
  • All forms should be returned to the employee’s line manager. If the line manager has any concerns as to the suitability of the home environment they should contact the University Safety Officer. Where homeworking has been agreed all completed forms should be forwarded to the link HR manager and stored on the employees personnel file.
  • The University may, in some instances, require the risk assessments undertaken at the employee’s home to be carried out by the University Safety Officer or a trained representative of the School/Directorate.
  • If the employee moves to a different home address they must inform the University and the suitability of the new work location must also be assessed.
  • It is the responsibility of the employee to notify the University of any other circumstances that could impact on the safety of the home working environment.

6. Designated homeworkers – academic and support staff

Employees are referred to as ‘designated homeworkers’ where they have a change in their contract of employment to have their office based in their home, even though they may be other than at home for part of their working time.

General guidelines

  • There is no absolute right on the part of any employee to work from home. All such work practices will be reviewed regularly by the employee’s line manager and, if necessary, the member of staff will be required to revert to their former working arrangement.
  • Employees wishing to become designated homeworkers must complete Homeworking Application Form B.
  • The line manager of any employee wishing to become designated homeworkers must complete the cost benefit analysis form. This analysis must take place on an annual basis.
  • Designated homeworkers and their line managers must also complete the Designated Homeworker agreement form before any homeworking agreement commences.
  • Other than in exceptional circumstances employees must have worked for the University for a period of 12 months before an application to become a designated homeworker will be considered.
  • Normally not less than two months notice of a wish to become a designated homeworker must be given. All applications must be fully discussed with the Directorate of Human Resources before any agreement is reached. Whether a request is approved or not depends on the circumstances of each case and its impact on the day-to-day work of the School/Directorate
  • As much notice as possible (normally not less than two months) of a wish to return to office based work must be given. Arrangements will be made by the University as soon as it is reasonably practicable to accommodate such a request.
  • Managers must ensure that designated homeworkers have opportunities to meet and discuss ideas as required.
  • In addition to regular team briefings, line managers must ensure there is regular communications as appropriate, between the office based team and homeworkers. Homeworkers must receive all relevant information and departmental and University communications.
  • Designated homeworkers will be required to attend work premises at reasonable notice and for whatever periods may be necessary. Purposes could include meetings, reporting sessions, submission of completed work, and training.
  • If appropriate homeworkers have to be allocated a work area within University premises using principles of ‘hot-desking’ for the time they are expected to attend.
  • Meetings with students and external visitors should not take place at the employees home.

Equipment and Workstation

  • Following the risk assessment the implementation of any changes required to the physical fabric of the designated office space (e.g. electrical safety and sockets, heating, wall or ceiling lighting) to enable the employee to carry out their duties at home are the responsibility of the employee. The employee is also responsible for the cost of the changes.
  • Where changes are required to electrical wiring or to heating systems the employee will be required to produce documentation to show that the necessary work had been carried out by a suitably qualified professional.
  • Maintenance of the physical fabric of the home office is the employee’s responsibility.
  • The University will provide the equipment to make any work station adjustments necessary (e.g. desk, chair, filing cabinet the supply of an individual task light) to enable the employee to carry out their duties at home. The items will remain the property of the University.
  • The University will be responsible for installation, maintenance, repair and removal as required. Stationery and similar office materials will be supplied by the University.
  • The employee is responsible for keeping all such equipment in good condition, reasonable wear and tear accepted, and for reporting any damage or malfunction to their line manager.
  • Prior to termination of the contract of employment the University will require the employee to return all its property including equipment, software, documents and files. Without prejudice to the University’s legal right, entry to an employee’s property must always be by mutual agreement.
  • In certain circumstances, and with the agreement of the University the employee may opt to keep the equipment and/or furniture in exchange for a payment equal to the original cost, less depreciation since its purchase. The value of the items will be as detailed in the latest cost benefit analysis.
  • The employee shall arrange for broadband from a University approved supplier to be installed at the University’s expense. All rental charges will be invoiced to the University.
  • The member of staff shall arrange for a business telephone line to be installed from a University approved supplier at the University’s expense solely for business usage and all call and rental charges will be invoiced to the University.
  • In exceptional circumstances where a business telephone line is not a viable option the University will provide a mobile phone for which all call and rental charges will be invoiced to the University. If a mobile phone is provided it may only be used for work calls whilst the employee is in their home office and should not be used outside the home.
  • Additional and/or specialist equipment may be required due to an employee’s disability. On such occasion it will be appropriate to have the workplace assessed to advise on equipment available under the Access to Work Scheme or other relevant arrangements.

Risk assessment

  • The University Safety Officer or a trained representative of the School/Directorate will carry out the risk assessment undertaken at the employee’s home.
  • A digital photo or photos of the agreed workstation will be taken by the University Safety officer and kept on the employee’s personnel file.
  • If an employee moves to a different home address they must inform the University and the suitability of the new work location must also be assessed.
  • It is the responsibility of the employee to notify the University of any other circumstances that could impact on the safety of the home working environment.
  • The frequency of any subsequent visits will be dependent on the quality and adequacy of the work location. E.g. if the employee provides a separate office that easily conforms to required standards a revisit might not take place for 2 years. If the location is only just adequate the University may to revisit sooner to check the workspace is still acceptable.

7. Data protection

  • It is the duty of any employee working at or from home to take all reasonable precautions to protect information which is stored in the home relating to their employment with the University. They need to consider in particular access that other people residing in or visiting the home may have to the information.
  • Information is confidential where it is expressly stated to be confidential. Information can also be confidential where its nature or quality attracts confidence by implication, or where it is covered by data protection legislation.
  • Information must be kept secure when in transit between home and work, e.g. never leave a briefcase or laptop unattended.
  • Information which contains data about any identifiable living individuals is subject to the Data Protection Act. Employees working at or from home need to know and understand their obligation to keep data confidential and secure.
  • In practice employees working at or from home are best able to follow the data protection principles by keeping work related information files and documentation and domestic life separate and storing such information files and documentation in a lockable filing cabinet.
  • Where there is a risk that other household occupants might gain access to work related computer files these should be password protected. Great care should be taken not to inadvertently disclose passwords.
  • Homeworkers must ensure any computer at home that holds work related information files has up-to-date anti-virus software. The University uses Sophos anti-virus software and this is available to home users see /services/cs/virus_info/
  • Employees working at or from home using a broadband connection should ensure they have a properly configured firewall.
  • Work related information files and documentation taken or stored at home must also be accessible to anyone within the University who needs to use it for their work. In principle this means employees should never take home the only copy of this type of information.
  • Line managers are responsible for agreeing and monitoring procedures for ensuring the security of the work, information, and data files under the homeworker’s control.

8. Taxation and Insurance

  1. Taxation/mortgage

    Employees working at or from home are responsible for any tax or mortgage implications arising out of their homeworker status. It is strongly recommended that employees investigate any likely tax and mortgage implications before they commence any homeworking arrangement. Staff may also wish to take advice from their recognised trade union.

  2. Employers’ liability Insurance

    The University has Employers’ Liability Insurance which covers its legal liability for personal injury to employees while acting in the course of their employment. This cover extends to situations where the employee is working at or from home.

  3. Public liability Insurance

    The University has Public Liability Insurance which covers the legal liability of the University and its staff for injury and/or property damage to third parties caused whilst on University business. This cover extends to situations where the employee is working at or from home.

  4. Property Insurance
    • Any equipment bought and owned by the University is automatically covered by the University’s insurance subject to a £750 excess. Individual Schools and Directorates will indicate whether they also require employees working from home to include such items on their home and contents insurance in order to obtain cover with a lower excess. In circumstances where this is required any additional costs will be born by the School or Directorate.
    • The University’s insurance cover includes conditions relating to security and risk management. These are detailed in Sections 2, 14 & 15 of our Insurance Handbook. This document is held by an administrator in each School and Directorate. It is the responsibility of the home worker to obtain a copy of this document and to ensure compliance with these conditions.
  5. Home and Contents Insurance
    • The employee working at or from home will be responsible for arranging adequate insurance of their home and contents other than the items specifically insured by the University. It is the home worker’s decision as to the level of insurance provided.
    • In the case of Designated Home Workers evidence must be provided to the University that insurers of the property have been advised in writing of the employee’s working from home and have acknowledged this in writing. A sample letter is provided in section g below.
  6. Notification of Incidents

    Homeworker’s Own Insurance:

    Incidents resulting in a claim against the home worker’s own insurance cover must be advised to their insurer.

    Employer’s Insurance:

    Incidents which may result in claims against the University’s insurance cover must be reported to the member of staffs line manager. Major incidents must be reported immediately by telephone to the member of staff’s line manager or as soon as is reasonably possible if the incident occurs outside office hours.

  7. Example Letter to Homeworker’s Building And Contents Insurer(s)

    NB. The letter should be signed by the policyholder, who may not be the home worker.

    Example letter

9. Risk Assessment – see also appendices 1 - 4

  • Any agreement for staff to work at or from home will be dependent on a satisfactory risk assessment. This will involve an assessment of all the risks to the health and safety of the member of staff working at or from home. The assessment will identify any potential hazards in the home and assess the risks those hazards might pose to the member of staff, and other occupants of and visitors to the home. Appropriate action to remove those risks or reduce them as far as possible must be taken.
  • Occasional and regular homeworkers must complete a self-assessment. Designated homeworkers will have their assessment undertaken by the University’s Safety Officer or by a trained member of staff from the homeworkers School or Directorate.
  • Homeworkers are required to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of other persons who may be affected by their acts and omissions at work in the home.

    Risk assessments should take into account the following issues:-

    1. Workplace

      The home workplace should have adequate ventilation, a reasonable temperature, suitable and sufficient lighting, sufficient space, and the floor should be kept free from obstructions or from articles or substances which could cause a homeworker to slip, trip or fall. If the University approves the home as suitable, it will be the homeworkers’ responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy working environment.

    2. Display Screen Equipment (appendix 1)

      Any staff wishing to work at or from home will not be permitted to carry out a significant amount of work at a home based workstation until such risk assessment has been carried out and any recommendations implemented.

    3. Electrical Equipment (appendix 2)

      The University is only responsible for electrical equipment which it supplies. However, before allowing an employee to become a homeworker the University will ensure that the homeworker’s own electrical wiring is adequate for the purposes intended (form 2). Maintenance of the wiring is the homeworker’s responsibility.

    4. Handling Loads(appendix 3)

      Any staff wishing to work at or from home should be warned of the hazards of handling loads. If staff are manual handling equipment or materials while working at or from home they must complete form 3.

    5. Substances and materials (appendix 4)

      If staff are using substances or materials that may be hazardous to health and safety while working at or from home they must complete form 4.

    6. Security

      Staff who undertake to meet with colleagues or members of the public in the course of their employment should make appropriate arrangements to meet at the local work office or in a public building.