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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Working from home

Homeworkers have their jobs (usually practical work) based in their home. Teleworkers also do their normal (but usually office-based) work from home. Both kinds of homeworking have potential drawbacks and advantages. Your employment rights will depend on whether you are a worker, an employee or if you are self-employed.

Homeworking

A homeworker is anyone who only works from home. Many homeworkers in the UK are employed in manufacturing, making a wide range of items from footwear to car components.

Employment rights

As a homeworker, your employment rights depend on your legal status. There are three main categories:

  • workers
  • employees
  • self-employed

Your employment status is not always the same as your tax status. For example, you could be self-employed for tax purposes but be a worker for employment rights purposes.

The National Minimum Wage

Nearly all workers are entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage rate.

If your employer pays you by the amount of work you do, rather than by the hour, this is called 'piece work' or 'output' work. You are still entitled to the National Minimum Wage rate.

Health and safety

If you are an employee working from home, your employer must make sure you are safe. Homeworkers must be careful when:

  • handling loads
  • using equipment from work
  • using electrical equipment
  • using certain hazardous substances or materials (for example, glue or adhesives)
  • working with Visual Display Units for long periods

All homeworkers, whether self-employed or employed (especially new and expectant mothers), should take care if working on their own for long periods.

Bogus job offers

Some adverts for homeworking jobs are scams. Normally, real jobs don't come with a fee, so never send money up front to people or companies who claim they can give you work at home.

If you are interested in an advertised homeworking job do some research into the company and contact them with your questions. If they are legitimate, they should have no problems with speaking to you and giving you more information.

Common scams involve adverts:

  • about addressing and stuffing envelopes which ask for a registration fee -  if you pay it you get advice to place adverts like the one you saw, but no actual work
  • asking for money for home assembly kits and promising your money back and payment for completed kits - the advertiser will then pocket any money you send and claim the kit you assembled didn't meet the required standard

If you have been the victim of a homeworking scam, contact your local Trading Standards Department.

Teleworking

The main difference between 'homeworking' and 'teleworking' is that teleworkers, who may work full time from home, are usually doing office work rather than practical work and frequently make use of computers and other electronic devices to do their work and communicate directly with their office base.

Some teleworkers spend part of their week working in the office and part working at home. As with homeworking, your rights will depend on your employment status, if you are an 'employee' you will have the same rights as any other 'employee'.

Pros and cons of teleworking

 Benefits include:

  • more flexibility about the hours you work, allowing you to meet commitments at home, like childcare
  • freeing up time and money that might be spent travelling
  • helping to reduce stress

Drawbacks include:

  • the possibility of feeling isolated
  • missing out on office-based learning opportunities
  • your employer may insist that you're available at home during normal working hours, so you may lose some of the flexibility which working from home can give
  • you may have to sacrifice living space to set up a work station which will satisfy health and safety standards
  • your employer is likely to insist that they must inspect your workstation to make sure it's suitable, meaning you'll have to let them into your home

Security risks

Data security may be at risk if you use a personal computer, so your employer may provide you with one. You will have to make sure that any visitors to your house don’t see any sensitive material you are working with.

If you want to work from home

Speak to your employer. Anyone can ask their employer for flexible work arrangements, but the law provides some employees with the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern.

If you don't want to work from home

If you want to change your working pattern you should speak to your employer. Unless your contract says you are required to work from home, your employer cannot make you. Your employer cannot make you take work home with you after a day in the office.

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