Following agreement with the joint trade unions and approval at the Recovery Group and CMT, the interim home working scheme has been launched with effect from 1st October 2020.
The full scheme can be found below and provides detailed information and guidance to managers and employees in relation to supporting an agile workforce as part of the Council’s COVID-19 recovery process and future strategic plans, including the rationalisation of assets, the creation of community hubs and the progression of Digital NL ambitions.
The scheme enhances the current provisions which are outlined within the Council’s Smarter Working Policy and Guidance Note in particular for management initiated requests for smarter working locations.
This scheme is for an interim period from October 2020 to March 2021 and has now been extended for a further year to March 2022. It will continue to be subject to regular review to ensure that it remains fit for purpose and may be adapted to suit the future requirements of the Council.
There is also a separate myNL page for staff on the home working scheme, providing further information on the details of the scheme, useful additional links for information and a frequently asked questions page.
Please also be aware that returning to the office environment is part of phase 4 of the Scottish Government Route map and therefore even if your staff are classed as agile workers – home based under the scheme, they should not be returning to the office in any capacity at this time, if they can undertake their role from home.
The scheme applies to all employees whose role falls into one of the categories detailed below:
- Homeworker – an employee whose work base is home and who can undertake the majority of their work from home with the occasional requirement to work at a site or office location.
- Agile Worker – Home based – an employee whose work base is home and who works from home some of their time, but who also requires to work from sites, offices or depots some of their time, as determined by their role and line manager.
The scheme details indicative percentages for each of these categories – these are just a guide and managers should assess each role and discuss the categorisation of the role with the individuals involved.
Variation to contract of employment
It is important that you as a manager and the employees who are within scope of the scheme understand each of these principles as they apply to them. Please direct them to myNL for the most up-to-date information on this topic. The employee guidance can be found here.
If an employee’s role has been categorised as part of this interim scheme as a home worker or agile worker-home based, their contract will require to be amend to reflect the change to their work location – from an office or base currently, to home. This should be discussed with them prior to the contract variations being issued and any questions or challenges addressed.
The scheme details the key operating principles of home working and these are summarised for line managers below – for the full detail, please see the scheme at the bottom of this page:
The working environment for an employee requiring to work from home will need to be assessed by the employee and line manager at the earliest opportunity and if not suitable, alternative arrangements for the employee to work from an office location should be sought.
The following package shall be provided and maintained by North Lanarkshire Council.
- a. Provision of laptop PC and software.
- b. Provision of “key fob” facility for access to Council systems.
- c. Access to network printer as necessary
- d. Mobile phone where necessary.
A chair, monitor and ancillary equipment (for example foot rest, wrist support, riser etc.) will be provided by the Council as required and in line with the appropriate Health and Safety assessments.
See Expenses section where a payment can be sought for provision of a desk suitable for the home environment.
A record of what equipment an employee has at home should be kept on myTeam, and updated by the line manager as required.
The use of technology underpins any home working arrangement. It needs to be fit for purpose, accessible, reliable and useful. It should include all elements that the employee needs to do their work from home and this should be provided with appropriate guides or training to support engagement.
Equipping employees to work at home through online learning, good IT support and timely updates is essential for the successful implementation of the scheme.
Only Council approved devices and software should be used for work related activities.
Employees should be provided with the appropriate packages to allow them to conduct meetings from home if required, i.e. Microsoft teams or Skype. These meetings should be conducted confidentially and away from other household members.
Relevant ICT policies and guidance should be referred to as appropriate. Please see further guidance here.
4. Working Hours
An employees working hours at home should largely mirror those normally undertaken in the office, unless otherwise agreed by the line manager. These working hours can vary to accommodate work life balance arrangements, if agreed with the line manager and in line with the Smarter Working policy.
Employees should ensure, where possible, to limit interruptions during their working day, unless previously agreed with their line manager. Under no circumstances should they undertake any other responsibility e.g. childcare, during the hours they have agreed to work.
Employees working in an agile way can experience a blurring of lines between work and personal time and line managers should monitor and regularly review working times to ensure they remain in line with employee contracts and the Working Time Regulations.
For those employees participating in the scheme, mileage can be claimed from their home to the office or site they are required to visit to undertake duties, for those living out with North Lanarkshire Council it can only be claimed from the first boundary of the Council area nearest to the employee’s home.
If an employee is attending an office base for the day to carry out normal duties or attends on a regular basis as part of a rota, the journey from home to office will be classed as a commute and business mileage cannot be claimed.
It is anticipated that mileage for a home worker will be minimum and if being claimed regularly or excessively, managers will discuss with employees’ ways to minimise travelling for business purposes.
Expense claims should be submitted via mySelf and authorised via myTeam. Line managers should ensure employees have appropriate business insurance for work related journeys when travelling in personal vehicles.
Employees will be provided with a one-off tax-exempt payment of up to £100 to accommodate the purchase of equipment that cannot be provided by the Council, such as a suitable desk. Employees will be asked to produce a receipt to evidence that they have purchased equipment.
6. Heath and Safety
A Homeworking Risk Assessment and Display Screen Equipment (DSE) risk assessment should be undertaken for each home workspace at the beginning of the home working arrangement and reviewed periodically thereafter. Guidance is provided for how these risk assessments should be undertaken and outcomes fed into the line manager for appropriate action.
The employee should undertake the relevant online learning to ensure they are clear on the need for good DSE and workstation layout and posture.
It is the Council’s responsibility to ensure all employees are aware of requirements in relation to the safe installation and use of equipment within the home working environment and any necessary training will be provided.
Homeworkers and Agile workers – Home based should be made aware of the incident reporting system and procedures and report any work-related incidents. See here for more information.
7. Wellbeing of employees
Employee wellbeing is crucial at all times and particular elements should be considered for those working from home:
- Employees should be encouraged to take regular breaks and exercise and to structure their working day.
- Managers/employees should be encouraged to create intentional space for celebrations and social connection. Creating virtual spaces and rituals for celebrations and socialising can strengthen relationships and lay foundations for collaboration and encouraging good team dynamics.
- Loneliness and isolation can be factors when employees spend a lot of time working from home. Line managers should maintain regular contact with their teams both individually and in a group and look out for signs that their mental health may be deteriorating. Managers should react quickly to concerns and ensure that employees feel listened to and are pointed to relevant support mechanisms.
- Managers should consider how to build the resilience of employees working from home; this may be through virtual coaching or mentoring, online learning and encouraging teams to discuss their experiences about how to be most productive and effective at home.
- Further guidance for managers and employees on maintaining good health, safety and wellbeing whilst working in an agile way can be found here.
- Managers should seek advice from the Employee Relations team if they are concerned about an employee’s mental health.
8. Managing virtual teams
Whilst there are some challenges with home and agile working, there are also opportunities to work in new and exciting ways, increase work life balance and embrace technology. Line managers should be more intentional in how they motivate and manage their teams. It is also important that managers do not contact employees out with their normal working hours or make unnecessary contact throughout the working day. However, managers reserve the right to review the use of key fobs and electronic diaries whilst employees are working from home.
- Establish rules of engagement – set expectations of the frequency, means and ideal timings of communication with them as individuals and in their teams. Agree regular meetings to review workload and planned work for the following period between check-ins.
- Regularly check on communication between team members to ensure they are sharing information and touching base as necessary.
- Utilise a variety of communication technologies to keep employees linked in and engaged. These can include email, telephone, video conferencing, instant messaging and chat.
- Encourage individual teams to establish their own norms – ways they find best to communicate with each other – this might be Yammer, Skype or other forms of chat endorsed by the Council.
- Consider virtual team building activities and plan ways to update and engage with your teams regularly.
Employees working in at home or in an agile way should be reminded that they will continue to be governed by and must adhere to the Council’s policies and procedures including Employee Code of Conduct and Managing Attendance.
Further support for managers can be accessed on LearnNL.
9. Taxation, Insurance and Mortgages
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Office (HMRC) state that employees working with home as their base can claim tax relief .
It is the employee’s responsibility to make this claim, which can be made online and in relation to the current tax year only. This can be done through an online P87 form through your Government Gateway account or by filling out a postal P87 form.
Employees will be responsible for seeking confirmation from domestic insurance companies that their domestic insurance policies have been noted, or adjusted, if necessary. It is not anticipated that there will be an additional cost to home insurance for working from home.
Working at home may have implications for an employee’s mortgage or lease arrangement. Consequently, employees are obliged to advise their mortgage provider or landlord that they are working at home.
10. Security of Information
The employee will be responsible for the security of all Council information, files, documents, etc. in their possession and for ensuring there is no unauthorised access to such information. All information held should be treated in confidence, should not be inappropriately disclosed, and should be in accordance with the Council’s Acceptable Use of ICT Policy, the Council’s Policy on Data Protection and the Council’s Policy on Information Security. Advice is available from the employee’s line manager and on myNL.
Employees should be reminded of their need to complete the statutory online learning courses on Data Protection Essentials and Information Security Awareness.
Employees must ensure that they do not share sensitive or personal information under any circumstances outside of the secure Council systems. Use of WhatsApp, Zoom or other similar messaging tools or personal email should not be used.
It is not recommended that employees retain paper records at home and should consider scanning materials to save digitally. Retention arrangements for these records should also be considered.
Where employees require to discuss confidential matters, they should ensure their environment allows for this and/or they have appropriate equipment such as headsets to reduce the risk of conversations being overheard. Where these measures are not in place, employees should discuss this with their manager at the earliest opportunity.
11. Attendance at an office/site
The Council reserves the right to request the attendance of the employee at different work locations to carry out service provision as agreed with their line manager, for operational requirements. In circumstances where the employee is required to attend at a different location from their designated work base, travelling expenses will be reimbursed in accordance with standard procedures.
12. Sickness absence
Normal procedures relating to sickness absence apply and managers should confirm these with employees prior to the commencement of the scheme.
For further advice on the scheme, please see the employee guide pages here.
Find the full scheme below as well as a presentation you may wish to use to communicate to your effected staff on the main elements of the scheme.