Working from home: Your rights when it comes to hardware, software and data

The recent COVID19 pandemic has seen a huge rise in home working. At first home working was a forced change for many due to the stay at home order in place, but many employers have started to see this as something much more permanent or at least part of a flexible arrangement between home and office working.

Many workers have had to adapt to working from home for better or for worse but what are your rights then working from home and how do they differ from working within the office?

Hardware – should you use your own?

Depending on the terms of your contract, you may be provided with hardware owned by the company. If the equipment is owned by the company you will be responsible for this as you would equipment in the office, similar to which you should only use the equipment for work purposes.

If the equipment becomes damaged accidentally your employer will have the relevant insurance as they would if equipment was damaged accidentally in the workplace. Your employer should also be responsible for the maintenance and repairs to any hardware and should cover 100% of the costs including carriage.

Sometimes employers will expect you to use and maintain your own hardware such as a computer. Where this is the case and the cost falls on you can claim this as an expense through HMRC, sometimes employers will agree to contribute towards the cost of maintaining your own hardware.

Software – licenses and your rights

Whether you use your own hardware for your employer provides this, they should still provide you with the relevant software with a company license. Outside of an operating system which may be used on your own hardware for personal use, they must have a full license to use any software for business purposes, failure to means they are operating illegally.

Your employer should also maintain and update the software so it can be used effectively to do your job. They may provide support for you to do this remotely but the responsibility falls with them to ensure the software is fit for use so you can do your job as efficiently as possible.

Dealing with Data

If you’re working from home and you deal with clients data then your company will likely get you to sign a disclaimer or confidentially agreement. This will include clauses such as ensuring that personal details you don’t need are removed after use and that data, in order to remain confidential is not left on a screen for others in your household to view.

When dealing with data employers will often require you to work in a room in your home where others won’t be around to see or hear confidential data.

Your employer should also provide a backup method or shared server to ensure data is not lost. Your employer should also consider a data recovery plan for if your hardware fails. Software common for backing data up to a cloud includes Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.

Check your contract

Whilst rules are often very consistent for home workers across the UK, always check your contract to see the specific terms and what your employers expect from you. Make sure you assess your working area to ensure you have sufficient hardware, software and you are not likely to break any confidentially agreements in regards to personal data.

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