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The Department of Trade and Industry has unveiled a set of legal guidelines that UK firms must follow if they employ staff who regularly telework from home.

The DTI says the tightened rules are necessary as there are currently some 2.2 million employees who work away from corporate central offices using IT. The number - which has grown by two thirds since 1999 - is increasing at a rate of 400,000 additional teleworkers every year.

The guidance, produced after consultation with the CBI and TUC, sets out legal requirements and examples of best practice which are designed to help businesses and employees consider all issues related to flexible working.

It is important that both employers and teleworkers reach agreement on how they will regulate the work that they do, in order to make sure that the arrangement works effectively," said Brendan Barber general secretary, Trades Union Congress.

Under the terms of the revised guidelines firms must deal take responsibility for the "information security" of remote workers and address health and safety issues, including ensuring all electrical equipment complies with safety regulations. Employers must also provide personal support, to ensure that teleworkers do not become too isolated or lonely.

"By allowing more flexible ways of working telework can increase employment opportunities, particularly for those with families or who have long journeys to work. In turn this can ease pressure on infrastructure, facilitate regional development and help employees improve the balance between work and home life," said Gerry Sutcliffe, employment relations minister.

Digby Jones Director General, Confederation of British Industry added: " Teleworking is already an established working practice, and likely to grow in importance over the next few years. Having policies which meet both employer and employee need is key to implementing teleworking successfully."

The guidance apparently drags the UK into line with Europe over teleworking issues as the document states that it "is intended to provide a useful checklist of issues to consider when implementing teleworking and explain how the text of the European agreement might best operate in the context of the UK labour market". ®

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