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Teleworking and Your Rights

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 4 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Workers Rights Organisation Company

There's a lot to recommend teleworking, by which we mean working remotely from an office, usually at home, using telephone, email and the internet. There's the flexibility to arrange work, to some extent, around your home life. But there can also be negative effects too, such as being away from the buzz of the workplace and away from managers who control your career.

Pros and Cons

The advantages can be fantastic and not just for the teleworkers. You can work around the school run or experience the joy of shopping in the supermarket at 10 o'clock on Tuesday morning, when it's a lot less crowded. Being able to arrange work around the home administration is a godsend, particularly for families where all the adults are working. Then there are the benefits to others in that each teleworker is not contributing to road congestion and pollution, and employers can save money on premises rental if they can effectively convert significant numbers of employees to teleworking.

There are downsides too, however. Many people do not thrive out of the workplace environment, finding it hard to motivate themselves and direct their efforts to achieve the best productivity. And although many teleworkers start with a desk in the corner of the lounge or kitchen, it’s not long before a separate room becomes desirable, which may mean losing a bedroom or reception room, or even moving or extending.

Being away from the office to some extent can mean out of sight out of mind, and people may not find out as much about what is going on. It's not likely to be the major things that you need know to do your job but perhaps the side issues that can help you work out how best to do something, or what your priorities are. Just missing the gossip can have a negative affect on a worker's attitude.

Teleworking Legislation

From a working rights perspective, in the UK teleworkers are at an innate disadvantage. In theory, an employee has the same rights regardless of where they are working, but, in practice, most relevant legislation assumes the worker is situated at the employers premises.

The situation varies according to whether a teleworker is self-employed or employed. Self-Employed People are responsible for setting up their own insurances and showing that they comply with the relevant legislation surrounding their work, so to a great extent it really doesn't matter if they are in an office, workshop or bedroom at home. With employed teleworkers, the responsibility shifts to the employer, and although a European voluntary agreement has been developed for teleworkers, it has not been integrated into any legislation and has not been adopted in the UK.

Is There an Implicit Change of Contract?

If you are a new starter in an organisation, teleworking can be built into your contract. But if you are an existing employee who is asked to switch to teleworking, this should be treated as a change of contract and as such is subject to negotiation and mutual agreement. Look at our article on Your Rights When Your Company Relocates for more details, as the issues are broadly similar.

Consider All the Angles

If it looks like you are likely to be offered teleworking, sit back and think about whether or not it would work for you. Make sure that the company will provide any equipment that's needed for working at home and that it is insured, preferably by the company. Check that you will be able to return to working in the office or workshop if you find that you can't work effectively at home.

Most importantly you should find out what hours you are going to work and to what extent you can choose when you do them. This would include how you let managers know what hours you are keeping and how to log them. In this day and age it would be nice to think that a teleworkers could be judged more on whether or not they achieve their objectives in a timely manner, rather than how many hours they spend glued to a chair or a machine.

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