With Level 5 Restrictions extended until March at the earliest, the advice remains that only essential workers should travel to work. That means a lot of people are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future.
When you work from home, employees and employers have rights and responsibilities.
Citizens Information has outlined the following and for more details go to www.citizensinformation.ie
Employers have specific duties to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all their employees. These duties include the employee’s workspace if employees work from home.
Key duties include:
* Managing and conducting all work activities to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare of employees
* Providing safe work that is planned, organised, and maintained
* Assessing risks and implementing appropriate control measures
* Providing safe equipment including personal protective equipment, where necessary
* Giving information, instruction, training and supervision about safety and health to employees
Your employer should check with you to ensure:
* You are aware of any specific risks when working from home
* The work activity and the temporary workspace are suitable
* You have suitable equipment to do the work.
* There is a pre-arranged means of contact
*Employers must check that your temporary home workspace is suitable for the work. This includes things like safe access to the space, essential equipment, that the space is big enough and free of clutter, there is adequate lighting, ventilation, heat, and that electrical sockets, plugs and cords are in good condition.
* Employers need to communicate regularly with employees and ensure that employees are taking adequate breaks.
Employers should also:
* Keep in contact with employees
* Give regular updates to each employee
* Have emergency contacts and procedures in place
*Ensure employees take adequate breaks
Even though you are working from home you should have the same access to training and promotion opportunities as comparable colleagues working in the office.
If you are working from home, you have a responsibility to take reasonable care of yourself and other people who may be affected by the work you are doing.
* Cooperate with your employer and follow their instructions
* Protect yourself and others from harm during the course of your work. For example, you must take care of your equipment and report any problems immediately to your employer
* Report injuries to your employer immediately
* Follow any procedures put in place by your employer, for example, around checking in regularly
* Agree temporary remote working arrangements with your employer, including regular communication with them
* Identify the work to be done at home with your employer
*Identify the equipment you need to set up a safe workspace at home and agree this with your employer
* Identify a suitable safe space within your home for home working
* Agree plans and contacts to be used in the event of an emergency
* Ensure you have a suitable workspace
You continue to build up your annual leave when you are working from home and working your usual hours. You may not want to take annual leave during the COVID-19 restrictions as your travel options are limited.
However, employers may not want you to keep all your leave until later in the year.
Your employer may ask you to take some of your leave before a certain date. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 provides that the timing of an employee’s annual leave can be determined by the employer having regard to work requirements.
Under the Act, an employer can require an employee to take annual leave provided they consult with the employee or their trade union at least one month prior to the taking of annual leave.
Data protection and cybersecurity
The Data Protection Commission has given guidance on protecting personal data when working remotely.
Both employers and employees should ensure that:
Any device used has the necessary updates, such as operating system, software and antivirus updates
Any device is used in a safe location, and that nobody else can view the screen, particularly if working with sensitive personal data
Devices are locked if they are left unattended for any reason and stored carefully when not in use
Effective access controls, such as strong passwords, and, where available, encryption are used to restrict access to the device, and to reduce the risk if a device is stolen or lost
Work email accounts rather than personal ones are used for work-related emails involving personal data. If personal email has to be used, any contents and attachments should be encrypted and personal or confidential data should be avoided in subject lines
Where possible only the organisation’s trusted networks or cloud services are used
Steps are taken to ensure the security and confidentiality of paper records, such as by keeping them locked in a filing cabinet or drawer when not in use and making sure they are not left somewhere where they could be read by others, lost or stolen
Remote working and tax relief
If you are working from home, you may be eligible for tax relief on expenses like light, heat, telephone and broadband.
If your employer pays you an allowance towards these expenses, you can get up to €3.20 per day without paying any tax, PRSI or USC on it. If your employer pays more than €3.20 per day to cover expenses, you pay tax, PRSI and USC as normal on the amount above €3.20.
If your employer does not pay you an allowance for your expenses, you can make a claim for tax relief at the end of the year. You will get money back from the taxes you paid.
For more information go to www.citizensinformation.ie