As a safety measure during the coronavirus, much of the corporate world has decided to have staff work from home either full time, or on rotating schedules, a new normal which has gotten mixed reactions from those accustomed to working in a professional setting.
There are pros and cons to working from home. Work from home benefits can include a better work life balance, and a more casual atmosphere; when employees experience contentment between their personal and work lives, they are more likely to happily stay working for the company. Remote working is also low cost on the part of the company, which has raised the question, who pays for the equipment and internet being used by employees?
Should Companies Pay For Remote Work Requirements?
The answer is complex; it depends on the company. There is no current law in the United Kingdom that states employers have to pay for or reimburse broadband services and home office equipment, although employers do have health and safety obligations toward their employees, which could include home working equipment. Most companies will at minimum provide a laptop when one is essential to complete work.
In the United Kingdom, employers providing homeworking equipment such as computers, furniture, and office supplies have National insurance, reporting, and tax obligations, and these purchases may be exempt from tax in some circumstances, such as if the equipment provided is for business purposes only or if all of the following applies:
- The employer only pays partially for the additional household expenses
- If the amount provided does not exceed the weekly limit
- If workers need to work from home because the commute from work to the office is too far
What Employers Might Provide
Employers may provide the following equipment for a home office:
- Personal computer with pre-installed applications
- Broadband internet connection; employers can choose providers such as Wave Internet for their business packages and flexible services which allow workers to use unlimited data and VOIP phones
- Phone line
- Office furniture such as filing cabinet, desk and office chair
- Office supplies
Employers must make the work from home terms clear with workers before changing their primary work environment. The employer may decide to keep the same payment terms in both office and home settings and the employer must also first seek permission from the homeowner to understand if broadband installation is allowed and if the area is serviceable. Moving to work from home arrangements requires cooperation and coordination between the employer and employee.
Precedents Of Employers Paying Work From Home Costs
US companies such as Twitter, Shopify, and Basecamp have all offered USD$1,000 to staff to setup offices at home, including computers, desks, chairs, and lighting. Chegg, a textbook company, provided USD$500 for home office furnishings and committed to pay for the remote worker’s internet subscription monthly, there have also been instances of other companies reimbursing their workers for acquiring what they need for work.
In a recent study of 1,900 employees who work-from-home across 90 countries, 78% of the respondents indicated that they are paying for their Internet subscription themselves. A recent State of Remote Workers survey had over 850 remote workers as respondents, about 56% of whom cannot bring office equipment home, meaning one out of three have had to purchase their own equipment out-of-pocket; unfortunately, 37% of them did not get any reimbursement from their companies.
In the UK, arguments about who should pay for work-from-home bills are rising. At the start of the pandemic, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) began sending staff to work from home with benefits, including installing broadband lines and paying for the service monthly. This offer was later withdrawn in exchange for a £230 goodwill payment. Vodafone has provided a one-off payment of £250 to staff, plus a laptop and accessories, in order to help their teams set up a home office.
Many companies do not pay for workers internet accounts, despite it being necessary for their work from home abilities, and while some people argue that employees are saving money on commutes, therefore subsidising the internet bills, others believe companies should improve employee morale by footing the bill.
Companies may pay for broadband services for remote workers depending on various factors, and since laws vary from one location to another, the employer should look up the requirements for their area and see if they have specific obligations. Employees may also need to assess if they genuinely need internet subscriptions for work and play, and negotiate with employers where it is an unnecessary personal expense.