The number of people working from home during the Corona virus crisis is at an all time high. During this unprecedented crisis many people now find themselves isolated from colleagues and, working around family and children. This along with home-schooling, in some cases, will be a completely new experience, not to mention anxiety about the pandemic itself.
It can be daunting for employers to know what they should do without invading their employee's privacy, but still ensure that they are working safely. If you are employing someone to work from home, then employers still owe a duty of care and, the employee also has a duty of care to themselves and others. Encourage employees to complete a risk self-assessment form about their home set up. Employee and employer should discuss if anything else is required to improve their work environment. Professional help may be sought where there is uncertainty.
Legislation for people working from home and lone working has been in place since 1992. The Display Screen Equipment Regulations have outlined what employers must do to protect their workers and keep them safe and healthy 'as far as is reasonably practicable'. The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999, states that employers must risk assess to reduce the risks of injury and harm. This includes giving thought to people with specific needs such as a disability or pre-existing health issue.
Some employees may not have a home office, desk and chair and may have to work from their dining table. This is OK in the short term, but not long term. If they are working from a laptop, screen risers and separate keyboards and mouse may be required. Further or repeat risk assessment may also be necessary after a couple of weeks. In the interim period, refer to the HSE's advice on temporary working from home video.
Other considerations for employers:
- Review and update the policy on home working and issue out to employees
- Check the insurance implications of people working from home
- Ensure new contracts (or amendments) are issued to reflect the variation to an employee’s contract of employment
- Establish clear guidelines on working hours, breaks, workload, time limits and deadlines
- Remind people to take regular breaks away from the screen to avoid eye strain and to do stretches etc. to avoid fatigue
- Remind people to keep their equipment clean and to regularly wash their hands thoroughly
- Decide on how and how often contact will be made with home working employees - stay connected at reasonable frequencies
- Include agendas that should include mental health and well-being discussion, tasks, projects, workload, managing at home etc.
- Re-issue online data security and back-up policies (updated if necessary)
- Establish emergency and support contact details - if you had a dedicated help line at work, re-issue the details
- Encourage teams to stay connected through safe online systems or telephone
- Record your actions taken to support your home workers
As long as there is ongoing dialog between employer and employee, that is constructive and supportive, we should all get through these challenging times unscathed and in good health.
If you need further help with any of the above, get in touch on 0161 298 1040.
You might also consider asking people to take the DSE online course to affirm the guidance.