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Working From Home: Health and Safety Duties for your Employees

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It looks like working from home is here to stay, but with it comes some additional health and safety risks that employers need to look out for – and many have not kept on top of these issues during the pandemic. Owen John at Darwin Gray looks at some of the signs to look out for and how to support them. 

Working from home comes with many benefits in giving workers more flexibility and freedom as to their working patterns. But it can also bring its own problems, such as health and safety risks, isolation issues, risk of increased stress, poor posture and mental health issues.

Every employer has a legal duty to look out for the health and safety of their employees. As an employer, you are required to apply the same health and safety risk assessments for a home worker, as you would do for any other worker. So, it’s important that you know what the risks are, and make sure that you perform adequate health and safety risk assessments for employees who work from home.

What are the hazards to look out for?

Some risks that you should specifically consider for most employees working from home include:

  • risk to the mental health of your staff such as burnout, stress and anxiety;
  • risks associated with workstations such as physical health and posture; for example, consider a staff member working without enough space, a proper desk, supportive chair, or the correct set-up of display equipment; and
  • lone working, which can both increase the risk of physical harm and pose a threat to mental health.

Having an adequate home working risk assessment policy will help employers control the risks and safety measures required for home workers.

How do I carry out a risk assessment for employees that work from home?

Although the risk assessment process will undoubtedly be different for those working from home (employers are not able to just show up at an employee’s home address and carry out a risk assessment), you still need to carry out an adequate risk assessment for the safety of your employees. Here are some top tips to help you perform risk assessments for those working from home:

  1. Workstation assessment: ask homeworkers to carry out a workstation self-assessment and send you evidence of the results, regardless of whether or not you provided their workstation equipment. You could even go as far as refusing a request to work from home if health and safety concerns raised in the self-assessment are not are not addressed.
  2. Training: make sure that you provide your employees with enough health and safety training to enable them to be safe at work. Homeworkers will then be equipped and able to take reasonable care of their own health and safety whilst working from home.
  3. Breaks: make sure homeworkers are aware of the importance of taking rest breaks, sticking to their contractual hours where possible, and resting their eyes, in addition to having a proper workstation set-up.
  4. Insurance: check that your employers’ liability insurance extends to staff working from home too.  You may also want to check that use of business equipment at home is covered by your insurance policy when taken off your premises; and
  5. Keep in touch: ensure remote workers come in to the office where possible so that they can stay up to date with the business and keep in touch with other staff.

If you need any help or advice on any of the above, please contact Owen John on [email protected] / 02920 829 118 for a free initial chat to see how Darwin Gray can help you.