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Things to consider when working remotely

Employers and employees should consider aspects related to employment law, health and safety, as well as costs, privacy and data security issues.

Changes to employment agreements

Employers should consider whether they need to update the employment agreement to reflect the variations made to working arrangements. If the variation to the agreed hours of work or place of work is permanent, then the employment agreement should be updated.

Hours of work

Offering and negotiating employment agreements

Health and safety

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and related regulations, employers must provide employees with the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes risks to both physical and mental health.

If employees regularly work from home, employers should consider whether this would be a ‘home-workplace’ that needs a health and safety risk assessment. This could include things like ergonomics of the workstation setup, fire safety equipment, and first aid kits.

Health and safety at work

If an employee lives alone and works at home regularly, there may also be risk of social isolation. Employers should make sure that employees have plenty of opportunities to stay connected with colleagues – either alternating days working at home and in the office, or having regular ‘virtual catchups’ through phone, email or video conferencing.

Protecting employees who work alone

Equipment and expenses

Employers should consider whether they need to purchase or provide allowances to cover additional office equipment and related costs to enable employees to work effectively from home. These include computers, screens, video and audio devices, and electricity or telecommunication costs.

There is no specific legal entitlement to allowances. The payment of and level of allowances, over and above salary or wages, can be agreed to by the employer and employee.

Benefits and allowances

COVID-19 expenses for working from home – Inland Revenue (external link)

Monitoring and privacy

Employers should think carefully about monitoring employees’ productivity whilst working remotely. Employers should only consider setting up cameras and software to monitor employees if it’s reasonable, for example, to ensure their safety. Monitoring staff can affect their morale and productivity because they may feel that they are not trusted by their employer. Employers need to be mindful of the different privacy concerns that arise when monitoring or filming occurs in the employee’s home environment.

Employee privacy

Information and data security

The company’s information and data may not be as safe at an employee’s home as at the business’ premises. This is because employers can control better the security of their information and data at their premises. Whereas, at home, employees may be using different devices and work from a different network and system which are outside the control of the employer.

However, there are additional security measures that employers can apply to enable safe remote working.

Working remotely securely – CERT NZ (external link)

Page last revised: 31 July 2020

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