The HSE blended working policy applies to employees in the HSE and Section 38 organisations.
‘Blended working’ is a combination of working from your work premises and working remotely at your home. This arrangement is based on an agreement between you and your manager, and approved through your organisation’s application process. Blended working is not an automatic entitlement and is subject to an application process and management approval.
If your application for blended working is approved, the work premises continues to be your primary workplace.
You must attend on-site:
- on specific days each week agreed with your manager; and/or
- an agreed percentage of days per week or month as agreed with your manager; and/or
- as-and-when days required by your manager (for example, for meetings, training, key events)
In general, no employee should work 100% remotely.
Managers are responsible for identifying roles which are suitable for remote working and engaging with their staff. While managers should encourage and facilitate blended working where practicable, it is also recognised that many roles within our health service require employees to work on-site and are not suitable for remote working.
You may choose to apply for blended working, but you do not have to do a blended working arrangement regardless of your role.
Key principles informing the approach to blended working
- Blended working arrangements must align with service needs and deliver efficient, high-quality services.
- Senior management will encourage and facilitate blended working where practical. This will be based on a role identification and eligibility criteria exercise. Management will inform employees of outcomes.
- Blended working applications will be dealt with in a fair, consistent, transparent and timely manner.
- Employees will generally have no automatic right to a dedicated workstation, or single-occupancy office at the work premises. A suitable work space will be made available when the employee is required to attend the work premises. Managers will inform their employees about the arrangements for allocation of desks/offices before confirming blended working applications (if approved).
- Approval of blended working arrangements is at management discretion. Blended working agreements include an initial trial period. In general, the trial period should last no less than three months and no more than six months.
- A blended working application can only be submitted for consideration once every 12 months. This applies unless the employee's role and/or unit changes, or there have been significant changes to their proposed home workstation.
- Employees must be able to carry out all the duties of their role while working remotely. Blended working must not be used as a substitute for annual leave or sick leave. While blended working may have benefits for persons with caring responsibilities, any caring responsibilities must take place outside of working time. The introduction of blended working will not reduce flexible working options such as part-time working under the Flexible Working Agreement, the Shorter Working Year Scheme, parental leave and carer’s leave.
The following criteria must be met to approve a blended working arrangement:
- business needs and role suitability
- employee suitability
- workstation requirements
Business needs and role suitability
Blended working arrangements must support business needs to deliver high quality services.
Managers are required to do a role suitability identification exercise, taking the following into consideration:
- requirements to access technologies/equipment/data accessible only on-site
- requirements for client-facing service delivery at the employer’s work premises or other locations (for example, client’s home)
- performing tasks that have a high degree of manual work
- performing tasks that must be provided on-site, and
- performing tasks that are more efficiently carried out on-site
Blended working should, as far as practical, be an option for all staff whose roles are suitable for remote working.
An assessment of an employee’s suitability may include:
- confirmation that performance standards are achieved in line with existing HR processes
- satisfactory attendance and compliance with the employer's managing attendance policy and procedure
- no ongoing disciplinary process or live record of disciplinary action
Your proposed workstation at home should comply with your employer's requirements and health and safety legislation.
- complete your organisation's blended working application and declaration form
- identify a suitable home workstation that meets the health and safety requirements set out in the blended working policy
- agree to a risk assessment and, if approved, to make no subsequent substantive changes to the workstation without authorisation
- confirm you can connect to a work computer via your own broadband connection
- ensure the workstation complies with data security and confidentiality standards
Making an application
- Read the blended working policy (PDF, 697KB, 32 pages)
- Have an initial discussion with your supervisor/line manager to discuss the suitability of a blended working arrangement, including the pre-determined eligibility criteria, the proposed blended working pattern and the impact on the team. You may be given feedback relating to areas where the eligibility criteria have not been met, giving you an opportunity to rectify these areas before submitting your application.
- If you wish to proceed, complete your organisation’s blended working application form and declaration. HSE blended working application and declaration form (PDF, 600 KB, 3 pages)
- Submit your application and declaration form for assessment by the manager who is the designated decision-maker
- Consider the employee's application and make a decision whether to provisionally approve, or refuse, the application
- Inform the employee, and record your decision in writing on the application form
- Where an application has been refused, the reasons for refusal should be clearly communicated in writing. The written confirmation of refusal should also inform the unsuccessful applicant about the option to appeal the decision under your organisation's grievance procedure.
Approval of an employee’s blended working application is provisional pending:
- assessment of the designated home workstation by a ‘competent person’ within a reasonable timeframe
- formal sign-off and written approval of the blended working arrangement following the risk assessment in line with health and safety legislation
Blended working agreements will include a trial period. The trial period generally should last no less than 3 months and no more than 6 months.
You may submit an application for blended working no more than once every 12 months, unless your role and/or unit changes or there are significant changes to your proposed home work station.
The reasons for refusing an application should be given to you in writing.
You have the right to appeal the decision under your organisation's grievance procedure.
Your grievance will be dealt with by a manager who was not involved in the original decision-making process.
Trial period and continuing assessment of suitability
If your application is approved, your blended working arrangement will initially be granted for a trial period (in general, no less than 3 months and no more than 6 months). The trial period gives you and your manager an opportunity to keep in regular contact and evaluate the suitability of the arrangement.
After the trial period, your manager will continue to assess the suitability of the arrangement. Where performance issues arise, your manager will discuss the issues with you as soon as practical, giving you an opportunity to rectify the issue. Your manager will keep a record of these discussions and the agreed outcomes.
To ensure blended working arrangements are effective, managers should:
- comply with the requirements of the HSE policy and guidance on lone working
- ensure equitable treatment for employees whether working from the work premises or remotely, including access to suitable virtual communication platforms
- promote a positive, open and inclusive working environment where individuals and teams feel valued and supported
- maintain regular contact with your employees to maximise engagements at an individual and team level, and to offer support
- ensure your employees know that they are subject to the terms and conditions of their contract of employment, and your organisation's policies and procedures, while working remotely
- promote a culture that supports a healthy work-life balance in line with HSE's right to disconnect policy for public health service employees
- provide relevant training and support to ensure your employees are equipped to carry out their role remotely
- periodically review risk assessments
- support health and wellbeing of your employees and provide details of the organisational supports available
You should check in regularly with your staff and use the online tools available to help teams communicate and work as a group.
Following review and giving reasonable notice, you or your manager may terminate the blended working arrangement. In most cases, reasonable notice will be one month. In exceptional cases and at your manager's discretion, shorter or longer notice may be given.
Your manager may terminate your blended working arrangement because of:
- business/service needs
- performance issues (for example, an employee may benefit from a more structured on-site work environment)
- technical issues such as poor broadband connectivity
- health and safety risks
- your declaration no longer being honoured
- other eligibility criteria no longer being met
Your manager should discuss with you why they are terminating the blended working arrangement, and confirm the decision in writing. You can appeal the decision under your organisation's grievance procedure.
If you wish to terminate the blended working arrangement, and return to an office-based environment for your full contracted hours, you should give your manager one month's notice.
Employees and managers can get advice on the policy from local HR and Employee Relations departments.