Now that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has unfortunately reached our shores, employers may slowly be inching towards a situation where drastic action must be taken without delay. Whilst local media reports that the only known cases in Malta are isolated and continually monitored, there’s no harm in getting ready to act in the best interests of your employees’ health if the crisis develops further.
Various companies have adopted a system whereby employees may be ordered to work from home. In the local scene, we’ve seen this in cases with employees returning from areas which required them to self-quarantine for two weeks. Now that the situation has hit home, are you prepared and ready to ask your employees to work from home, even at a moment’s notice?
Whilst work-from-home is a concept which is gaining ground in today’s more flexible and adaptable work environment, it still tends to remain a relatively novel concept in Malta. There is no one fixed way of how such a practice is to be regulated, as it generally adapts to the needs of both the employer and the individual employee. Like so many other aspects of your employer-employee relationships, it’s best to put down your considerations in writing in a clearly worded policy in order to avoid any undue discriminatory treatment.
Work-from-home policies must highlight that they are strictly discretionary. Employers are in no way obliged to allow employees to work from home and putting this in writing will benefit you immensely. You should always analyse the circumstances of a particular request – why it is made, how it will be worked out, and ultimately whether it’s possible for the work itself to be carried out from home. Other considerations would include whether employees may use company equipment or their own, and provisions regarding data security.
A public health issue of the scale of the COVID-19 outbreak surely warrants preparation, and employers can rest assured that such a policy (especially if tailored to cater for current considerations) will allow them to take immediate action to safeguard the health of all their employees. Effectively, once all this blows over, such a policy would readily be in place to provide for the possibility of working from home in the future under different circumstances.