Working from home during the current Covid-19 lockdown? Know your rights and responsibilities!

Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

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People should work from home where it is possible to do so during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For some employees, this will be a new experience although others may be used to working from home. You will need a laptop, a good internet connection, and a dedicated work space. There are many free online tools and resources for instant chat and video conferencing.

Employers must ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all their employees. Employees also have responsibilities when they are working from home.

This article, from Citizens Inforamtion, outlines the duties of employers and employee responsibilities during home working, gives general tips on working from home, information on Revenue's e-worker tax relief and where you can get further information.

Employers' duties
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
- Having plans in place for emergencies
- If employees have a disability, are young workers or are pregnant, employers need to ensure that the tasks and working conditions do not adversely affect their health. 

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. For example, your employer should make sure that the applications and systems you need are installed on your computer.
- There is a pre-arranged means of contact.

Equipment and your workspace at home

If your employer provides equipment, it must be in good condition and suitable for the activity. If you already have suitable equipment at home, it can be used temporarily.

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 – see here for advice on rest periods and breaks.

Employee responsibilities

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.

You must

- 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 .

You should

- 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 – See good positioning at your workstation (pdf).

General tips for working from home
Try to:

- Stick to your normal routine as much as possible, starting your day as you normally would: shower, getting dressed and eating breakfast.
- Keep times for lunch, dinner as close to normal as you can.
- When taking breaks resist the temptation to just go and make a coffee and come back to your workspace. Make the effort to go into another room or out to the garden, if you have one.
- Log off for your lunch break.
- If your partner is also working from home, arrange to have breaks together in another room or in the garden, if you have one.
- Give your eyes a break, for 5 to 10 minutes every hour. Get up, move around and take your eyes off the screen.
- Try to limit your social and news media intake.
- Exercise, stretch and go out for a walk if possible.
- Make sure you rest and get a good night’s sleep.
- Restrict the amount of alcohol you consume during the week to help you stay focused.
- Eat healthy foods even though as it is tempting to increase your intake of snack foods.
- Do take annual leave even if your travel plans have been cancelled, it may help to take even a portion of the leave planned so you can concentrate on your own health and wellbeing.
- Keep in touch with your colleagues, pick up the phone or video call colleagues that you would usually spend breaks or lunchtime with and chat to them for a few minutes.

E-working and tax relief
Employees working from home can claim tax relief. This payment is to cover expenses such as heating and electricity costs. Revenue allows an employer to make payments up to €3.20 per day to employees who satisfy the conditions for the relief, without deducting PAYE, PRSI, or USC.

If your employer pays you more than €3.20 per day, the payment will be taxable. Your employer must keep a record of payments made. You may instead choose to make a claim online at the end of the year. To do this, you must submit receipts to your local Revenue office using MyEnquiries available through MyAccount. These arrangements only apply to e-worker employees. They do not apply to workers who bring work home outside of normal working hours.

E-working is when you work

- At home on a full- or part-time basis
- Part of the time at home and the remainder in the normal place of work
- If you use part of your home for e-working, your home remains your Principal Private Residence and you are not liable for Capital Gains Tax when you sell it.