Following the launch of the NHS Staff Council's new framework agreement for home and agile/hybrid working, this guidance supports the new framework as set out in section 35 of the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled staff to do their job.
Working from home is one example of a reasonable adjustment. Disabled staff do not have to tell their employer that they are disabled to request home working, but applicants should be encouraged to identify if their request is to facilitate a reasonable adjustment for a disability as set out in the Equality Act 2010. Note that rights under Equality Act takes precedence over contractual rights.
Acas guidance on reasonable adjustments states that it is good practice for an employer to focus on the reasonable adjustments they can make rather than attempting to work out if an employee’s condition is a disability.
In addition to working from home as a reasonable adjustment, an employer may also be required to provide extra or specialist equipment for example, a particular type of phone for a person who uses a hearing aid or replacing a desk chair with one designed for an employee who has a disability affecting their back. An occupational health assessment could help see what adjustments are needed. This should also consider the staff member’s health condition and any risks related to lone working considering measures to keep in contact with the lone worker.
Further guidance on reasonable adjustments can be found here:
- What reasonable adjustments are: Reasonable adjustments - Acas
- In employment: Workplace adjustments - Equality and Human Rights Commission
Pregnancy and maternity
When a pregnancy is confirmed in writing, the employer must complete an individual risk assessment that covers specific needs. This applies to pregnancy, breastfeeding or having given birth in the last six months. If the risk assessment reveals a risk, employers must do all that is reasonable to remove it, or prevent exposure to it, and provide information on the risks and what action has been taken.
Step 1: temporarily alter working conditions or hours of work, if this is reasonable and avoids the risk. This applies to all workers.
Step 2: If that is not possible or does not avoid the risk the employer must offer you suitable alternative work on terms and conditions that are not substantially less favourable than the original job. Alternative work must be suitable and appropriate.
Step 3: If there is no suitable alternative work, your employer must suspend you on full pay for as long as necessary to avoid the risk.
Home working may be one way of removing or preventing exposure to risk.
Section 15 (leave and pay for new parents) of the NHS terms and conditions of service handbook covers returning to work on flexible working arrangements 15.79-15.80.
Consideration should be given to those breastfeeding or expressing milk on return from maternity leave, and reasonable action taken to protect health and safety for example adequate rest breaks to ensure proper nutrition, access to water and washing facilities, space to express and store milk. Homeworking may be one such way to support this.
All NHS employers must have a carer’s policy to address the needs of people with caring responsibilities and to meet the requirements of the ‘right to request’ flexible working legislation for carers of children and dependent adults (see Employment Relations Act for definition of carer). Section 33 of the handbook ‘balancing work and personal life’ includes further detail on supporting carers, homeworking is an option open to carers.
Equality impact assessment and monitoring
Assessing the impact on equality of proposed changes to home working policies, procedures and practices provides a good opportunity for NHS employers to make decisions that benefit their workforce and service users more equitably. An equality impact assessment should be a live document which is continually analysed through an agreed monitoring and review process that considers the impact of the policy, procedure or practice.
The monitoring and review process should include:
- regular reporting and discussion of monitoring data including equality monitoring at joint-partnership forums
- regular reporting at board level
- publication within statutory annual public sector equality duty reports (applications for flexible working and outcomes)
- auditing impact of home working on career development and progression.
More detailed guidance on equality assessments, monitoring and reporting can be found at appendix 1 and 2 of the joint negotiating guidance - reviewing flexible working policies.
Policies should include a commitment to ensuring staff who work from home do not suffer any disadvantage or less favourable treatment.