Ask a Lawyer: What Are the Legal Implications of ‘Work from Anywhere’ Policies?

The Hubble Team
The Hubble Team|

86% of people want to work somewhere other than the office at least once a week. In response to this growing demand for flexibility, more and more companies are giving their teams the opportunity to Work from Anywhere, which is great! 

Ideally, this would be as simple as handing everyone a laptop and setting up Slack, but like everything in business, there are a few legal implications to consider.

So, we spoke with our friend, Nick Pritchett from LegalEdge, to give you a short guide on the legalities of Work from Anywhere policies.

PS: This post should be considered as guidance and not legal advice. Where you can, please always consult with a professional (like LegalEdge!)

Let’s get into it. 

You’re still responsible for your team’s health and safety when they ‘Work from Anywhere’

What to be aware of:

You are responsible for your team’s health and safety in their workspace, wherever that may be. It’s not quite as straightforward as managing health and safety in an office, but basically, the place they carry out their work—whether at home or in a coworking space—should be treated in the same way you’d treat your HQ

What you can do about it:

  • Conduct regular risk assessments of all the work carried out by your team. 
  • Conduct surveys with your team.
  • Develop a Work from Anywhere policy for your business and give guidance on how to safely Work from Anywhere.
  • Provide them with the right equipment (more on that below)
  • Don’t just consider physical health and safety, consider their mental health as well. 
  • Give clear guidance for DSE (display screen equipment) health and safety regulations, including when to take breaks, how to use screen protectors etc. 
  • Do your due diligence on coworking spaces. Do they meet health and safety standards? 

What happens if a team member works from a public place?

What to be aware of:

Picture this. It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon and Dave decides to work at a coffee shop (let’s call it ‘Bosta’, in this case). A man starts arguing with him over a power socket. The situation heightens, an altercation takes place and Dave ends up in A&E with a black eye. Are you responsible for Dave’s health and safety then, even though ‘Bosta’ is a public space?

The truth is, it’s not quite black and white. The parameters of your health and safety procedures can depend on your ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy and your employee liability insurance may also play a part. 

What you can do about it:

  • Revisit your employee liability insurance and make sure it covers this new way of working. Ask lots of questions and if they don’t meet what you need, look around for another. 
  • Have a clear policy about what ‘Work from Anywhere’ means in your business and clearly communicate to your team when you’re responsible for their health and safety and when you’re not. 
  • Be transparent with your language—are you really offering a ‘Work from Anywhere’ option or is it more like a ‘work from home, coworking space or our office’ option? In that case, ‘hybrid working’ might be a better way to describe it. 

How to properly equip your team for ‘Working from Anywhere’

What to be aware of:

Technically, there’s no general legal obligation for your company to provide equipment for working from anywhere, however, you do have a duty to make sure your team has the right equipment to do their job both safely and efficiently.

In our study, we found that an ergonomic chair was most important to WFH employees, with 55% of respondents selecting this option. This was followed by a dual monitor, faster WiFi, and a standing desk. 

What you can do about it:

  • In your ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy, clearly outline which equipment your business will pay for and what happens if that equipment becomes lost, stolen or broken. 
  • Some businesses give their team members a fixed budget to buy necessary equipment for working from anywhere (so long as receipts are provided).
  • Understand that some people might require more support for equipment due to disabilities. 
  • Consider which team members require more than one workstation—e.g. someone could need a larger computer at home for its processing power, but also a laptop for meeting clients out and about. 
  • As it can be more difficult to keep track when people aren’t in the office, have regular check-ins and surveys about equipment—what needs to be renewed and when?

Managing data when ‘Working from Anywhere’

What to be aware of:

This is a biggie. Under GDPR, and various other laws, businesses are required to keep their customer’s data (and their team’s data) safe. Naturally, ‘WFA’ can make this more challenging. 

As a company, you should be aware of how your security systems and IT infrastructure are equipped to handle data protection, whether it’s cross-border or across the road.

You should also be aware of who in your company has access to data—that can include anyone from the head of HR, to the marketing intern who uploads newsletters to your CMS. 

What you can do about it:

  • First and foremost, upgrade your security systems and infrastructure for this new way of working.
  • As a company, regularly train your team on the type of risks that can impact data protection when working from anywhere. 
  • Require everyone to use their dedicated work computer/laptop and only connect to a secure VPN. 
  • Give clear guidance on the type of work that can only be done in private workspaces (e.g. your team cannot access customer data when in a public space, in case someone can see over their shoulder).
  • Write a new security policy for your team (e.g. everyone must renew their passwords every 3 months and use double-factor authentication.

Treating your team fairly when they ‘Work from Anywhere’

Under The Equality Act 2010, employees are protected against discrimination in the workplace at all stages of employment. This impacts the recruitment process, employment terms and conditions, training, pay, benefits, promotions and more. 

The standout point here is that team members who work from the office shouldn’t be favoured over those who Work from Anywhere (we’re looking at you, Google).

Instead, people should be treated fairly and equally, no matter where they work; have a system that accounts for the positives and negatives of both models. 

What you can do about it:

  • Come to an agreement with your team on which roles (or tasks) can be done remotely and which ones can’t.
  • Stay on top of your team’s wellbeing when you’re not having direct face-to-face contact.
  • Consider how you measure performance. This helps to ensure that promotions aren’t just given to those you see or speak to every day. 
  • Make sure your methods of communication are accessible for everyone—e.g. ensure emails are screen reader-friendly. 
  • Define your ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy and be consistent with it.
  • Train managers to deliver your ‘Work from Anywhere’ policy. 
  • Provide regular training and development for all members of your team.
  • Make sure everyone is invited to social gatherings. 
  • As far as legally possible, provide the same flexibility for all team members (e.g. don’t just offer flexible working to those who have kids).
  • Give your team options. Not everyone has the space or the right environment to work from home. 

The legal side of working from anywhere can seem complicated, but giving your team a place to work can be a total breeze with The Hubble Pass. Think hundreds of on-demand coworking spaces, in over twenty countries with just one account for your business. Now your team really can Work from Anywhere. 

Need some help with your people?

LegalEdge is a practical, affordable legal solution for growing companies like yours. With a team of flexible business lawyers, they can help you get your legal processes running like clockwork to reduce risk and streamline your policies for these new, exciting ways of working. 

Get in touch today to find out how LegalEdge can help your business. Just click here.

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