Many employers in Hong Kong have needed to implement work-from-home (WFH) preparations for his or her staff. The sudden shift to distant working has led to operational challenges, for instance, complete IT and digital platforms could also be required to allow the work to be carried out remotely. Companies that depend on cross-functional collaboration have skilled actual challenges and have needed to adapt quickly.
This speedy and wholesale shift has given employers the chance to see the chance and potential of implementing extra everlasting WFH preparations. Whereas the talk nonetheless rages about the advantages of sustaining a extra everlasting WFH association (and presumably price financial savings on actual property), some employers are taking a look at bringing staff again to the workplace.
Nonetheless, what in case your worker doesn’t need to return to the workplace? What can an employer do in these circumstances?
There are a variety of authorized issues.
- Security first. Earlier than requiring staff to return to the workplace, it have to be secure for them to take action. Below the Occupational Security and Well being Ordinance (Cap. 509) each employer should, as far as moderately practicable, guarantee the protection and well being at work of all its staff. Below the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57), an worker might terminate their employment with out discover in the event that they moderately worry bodily hazard by illness which was not contemplated by their contract of employment. So, it could not be a lawful and cheap route of the employer to require an worker to return to the workplace if it was unsafe to take action whether or not due to COVID-19 or another motive. The employer ought to perform (or replace) their danger evaluation and take into account whether or not it has taken all moderately practicable steps to make sure the office well being and security of its staff. These steps might embody offering acceptable hand-washing amenities, frequent cleansing of widespread amenities (reminiscent of lifts, doorways, railings and restrooms), having staggered beginning or ending work hours, and lunch breaks to keep away from peak hours and provision of acceptable protecting gear, reminiscent of masks, gloves and sanitising merchandise.
- Does an worker have the appropriate to WFH? An worker doesn’t have a statutory proper to work at home, so any proper to work at home can be granted underneath the contract of employment, which might be distinctive.
- Adjust to the contract and insurance policies. Each the employer and worker might want to adjust to the contract of employment and contractual insurance policies. If the contract of employment gives for the workplace as being on the workplace, the worker has a contractual obligation to work within the workplace and the employer (topic to the feedback above) might direct the worker to return to work within the workplace. If the worker refuses, it’s a breach of contract and the employer might then take into account taking disciplinary motion. Nonetheless, if the employer has a contractual disciplinary coverage or process, then it should adjust to that coverage or process earlier than taking any disciplinary motion.
The place an worker is resisting returning to the workplace, as an preliminary step the employer ought to have interaction with the worker to search out out the the reason why. The employer ought to take into account the authorized points talked about above and take steps to mitigate these dangers. The place the employer can safely direct the worker to return to the workplace, it may well accomplish that and the place acceptable take disciplinary motion.
Employers must also bear in mind non-legal issues reminiscent of worker relations, employer branding, and expertise attraction and retention issues. This time will cross however any hostile publicity from the employer’s actions might have an effect on the attraction and retention of staff.