Workplace Report November 2020

Health & safety news

Homeworking rise demands negotiation and agreement

As new Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research suggests the number of people working from home could double following the coronavirus pandemic, the general Unite union has called on employers to reach homeworking agreements “to avoid an industrial minefield when turning workers’ homes into a place of work”.

The union has published a new framework homeworking agreement to help workplace reps in their negotiations with employers. This outlines potential problems associated with homeworking, including the encroachment of work into the personal sphere, lower levels of innovation and creativity, feelings of isolation, leading to stress and depression, and health and safety risks from working in an unsuitable environment.

Initial findings from an ongoing academic study on working from home by Strathclyde University business school professor Phil Taylor, Covid-19 and contact/call centre workers: working from home, also identify health and safety problems.

Unite’s framework agreement lays down a set of minimum standards it expects all employers to adhere to as part of negotiations. These include agreement that homeworking should be voluntary, equal treatment for homeworkers, risk assessments with the involvement of union representatives, the provision of appropriate equipment, IT systems and technology to support remote working, and training.

“Covid-19 is leading to an explosion in homeworking,” said Unite executive officer Sharon Graham. “There are dangers as well as opportunities for workers and it is in everyone’s interest to ensure homeworking is introduced properly and fairly.”