Home workers to get new legal rights

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The Independent Online

Britain's 2.2 million home workers are to be given new employment rights under a government charter to be published on Tuesday.

Developed by the Department of Trade and Industry, the charter is designed to offer so-called teleworkers the same rights as staff who work from an office.

UK law does not define teleworking, but the Government estimates that 7.4 per cent of the working population operates away from the office. An extra 400,000 people will start teleworking this year, it believes.

Since April 2003, parents of children under six years old and those with disabled children under the age of 18 have the legal right to ask their employers to consider flexible ways of working.

Gerry Sutcliffe, the employment relations minister, said teleworking "can ease pressure on infrastructure, facilitate regional development and help employees improve the balance between work and home life. For businesses, these new ways of working can offer new ... opportunities, improve productivity and maintain competitiveness."

The new charter, which is supported by the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress, will offer guidance in seven areas:

¿ Employment contracts - the charter will say that contracts may need to be altered to specify place of work, hours and expenses to cover heating and lighting.

¿ Privacy - staff working from home will "have a right to privacy out-of-hours". The charter will recommend that companies install a separate telephone line in workers' homes for business calls.

¿ Equipment - employers will be responsible for providing and maintaining computer equipment.

¿ Health and safety - the DTI will warn that teleworkers have the same rights as office workers.

¿ Training - it will say teleworkers should be offered specific training programmes.

¿ Taxation - new tax breaks will be available to companies to encourage teleworking.

¿ Collective rights - the document will warn that teleworkers have the same union rights as office workers.