With remote working currently the standard for many, employers may be unsure about how to deal with workplace injuries. So, what do employers need to know?
Who is responsible for the health and safety of a home worker?
Under health and safety legislation, employers are still responsible for employee welfare, despite working from home. However, employers won’t have the same degree of control over working set-ups as they would in a traditional office environment.
Nevertheless, while it is not feasible for employers to assess their employees’ home offices at present, it is crucial to inform them of the risks to be aware of and how to avoid them.
Our guide to working from home outlines seven practical considerations for employers.
Types of workplace injuries
When looking at workplace injuries, there are two sides to consider. In terms of physical injuries, these are broadly the same as when working in an office. From slips and falls to longer-term issues, such as back injuries, employers are still required to take steps to minimise these risks.
On the mental health front, wellbeing is often more difficult for employers to monitor in a remote working scenario. Because of reduced face-to-face contact, it can be challenging to spot added stress or other issues. However, employers must still manage any mental wellbeing problems as usual.
What risks are there to employers?
Legally, employers could risk prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for health and safety breaches. They could also face claims against the company by individual employees. It’s important to note that the HSE can also prosecute company directors on an individual basis for contributing towards a breach through ‘consent, connivance or neglect’. Ultimately, these could lead to fines and even custodial sentences.
There are also some non-legal risks to consider, such as damage to the organisation’s brand, a negative impact on employee motivation and productivity, and increased sickness absence levels and staff turnover.
How can HR reduce the risk?
Employers need to ensure that someone is responsible for managing health and safety risks and that employees are aware of who this is. Often it will be the HR department, although this may vary.
Employees must be correctly informed about the risks present in a homeworking environment, as well as how they can be addressed and how they should be reported. Employers should also be clear about the support available to staff, from providing the appropriate equipment, such as orthopaedic chairs, to mental health assistance.
Homeworking is now a core part of our new abnormal, with traditional full-time office working likely to become a thing of the past. As such, employers need to understand that they still have a responsibility to protect their employees, no matter where they are working.
If you need advice or guidance on dealing with workplace injuries while your employees are working from home then our employment team can guide you through your responsibilities. – contact Matt McDonald for guidance and support.
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