The Push towards Homeworking – ‘Good or Bad’?

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2018 Water, Environment & Transport Conference
23 February 2018

Conference is aware that homeworking has increased substantially in recent years and is only going to continue in the future, as sector WET companies continue to cut overheads, save space, encourage flexible working and require an agile workforce.

Yorkshire Water are currently encouraging their workforce (office based) to consider working from home at least 1 day at week on a permanent basis. Although this might suit both parties we need to remain vigilant that homeworking arrangements are to be entered into voluntarily and members should not be forced into switching to home working arrangement.

It is accepted there are benefits of homeworking but these tend to weigh in favour of employers rather than employees. Benefits for Employers include: reduced overheads, increased productivity, better morale and motivation and they can also show they are helping the environment. For employees benefits may include: reduced commuting time, a better work/life balance and easing the caring responsibility.

The Health and safety of our members, without question, is paramount in considering homeworking. Employers need to fulfil their Duty of Care (Safety at Work Act 1974 – which extends to Homeworkers) they have and ensure things like, there is suitable workspace at home, a risk assessment has been completed, DSE checks are carried out, and lone worker arrangements are in place.

The Well-being of members must be considered by companies and support measures put in place so members do not feel isolated from the organisation or frustrated about not being informed about changes.

It is acknowledged there is a considerable amount of helpful information on homeworking available which includes UNISON’s guide (2017) which includes a ‘Model Homeworking guide’.

In response to employers pushing or encouraging employees to Homework. This Conference calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

(1) Send out the latest UNISON homeworking guide to all WET branches, so that branches can compare, if policies exist, or negotiate with employers where necessary the introduction of homeworking policies.

(2) Consult with branches to find out the current extent of homeworking within the WET sector – especially those who are normally office based, whether it is, ad-hoc or 1 or more days on a permanent basis.

(3) Enquire of WET Branches, where possible, how many of them have agreements on homeworking.

(4) Evaluate any evidence to suggest WET employers are pushing or encouraging their workforce to work from home.

(5) Consider holding a workshop session at the next WET seminar to share information, best practice and consider inviting an appropriate experienced speaker to explain the good, bad and ugly about homeworking to ensure WET members health, safety and wellbeing are protected while working from home.