We’ve been asked several times what companies should do when they furlough staff who have company-owned phones and laptops at home? Should they be made to switch them off for the entire time?

No, I do not agree that business devices in the possession of staff who are furloughed should be switched off for the entire time. I think that the employer has a duty to tell them that the terms of the furloughing are that they are not allowed to work. You are not going to want to have people doing helpdesk jobs, or paying the wages for instance, but they might want to occasionally check emails to keep in touch or do something in order to ensure that their job and the business stays viable and nobody in the world is going to tell them they can’t or that this is a bad idea. They might want to forward sales enquiries to someone who isn’t furloughed or take the opportunity to do some online training, research, writing – it might be something to do with the company but not their actual job. Using company assets to do this might help them perform better when they return, help with boredom and/or improve their mental health whilst they are stuck in isolation at home.

I expect each employer will take a different stance, but as long as they tell their furloughed staff that they cannot work then they have met their obligations.

It is not for us to lay down the law on what people can and cannot do, it might not even be a law but just a guideline and we do not want to be accused of what is in essence taking it all a bit too seriously when a huge dose of common sense is what is required. I firmly believe that now is not a time for pendantry

If the government tell employers that they must take every possibly step to ensure that furloughed staff cannot work or have any access to work resources or contact anyone in relation to work whatsoever my advice would be different .. but then we would be in a police state and world will already have gone to hell in a handcart.

David Hewett – Managing Director – iTeam Solutions Ltd

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