Employers are responsible for their employees’ health and safety, whether they’re working on a commercial premises or working from home. Even when an individual is not working from a business location, it is still the responsibility of the employer to support employee wellbeing, including their physical and mental health.
Below we detail exactly what the employer is responsible for when it comes to remote workers’ health and safety, and how they can support employees who are working from home.
The employer will have a legal responsibility to manage various aspects of employees’ health and safety, including undertaking risk assessments and supporting physical and mental wellbeing.
It is the employer’s responsibility to assess the risks of the workplace, including for remote workers. A risk assessment will need to be carried out to identify any dangers or hazards to the employee. The employee should be able to carry this out themselves, but it is the responsibility of the employer to implement and organise. If and when risks are found, the employer should work with the employee to remove them or minimise them where full removal is not possible.
The risk assessment should include factors such as temperature or the place they are working, whether there is sufficient lighting and if the equipment is suitable to work. A separate DSE (Display Screen Equipment) assessment should be carried out for those employees that use DSE as part of their everyday work for longer than an hour at a time. This will include where screens are set up on a desk to reduce risks to employees’ back, neck, and shoulders, as well as other hazards. Training and information should be given to employees to ensure their workstation is setup correctly, and workers should be encouraged to take regular breaks from.
A record must be kept of the risk assessment, the findings and any changes that have been made to mitigate risks. Where it has not been possible to fully remove hazards, they should be kept under review to ensure the danger is kept minimised.
In order to support employee’s physical health, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure serious workplace accidents are reported under RIDDOR. A record must be kept of any reportable injury or dangerous occurrence. The employer should have a dedicated ‘responsible person’ who will need to report the accident or injury. The report should be made online where it will be submitted to the RIDDOR database.
Employers also have a responsibility to make provisions for First Aid and inform employees of the First Aid arrangements. For workers in low-risk environments, such as working from home at a computer, only basic First Aid will need to be provided. However, for remote and lone workers in high-risk environments, such as driving, more First Aid equipment and training will need to be given.
The employer’s responsibility for health and safety extends to the employee’s mental health. For remote workers, this can include the risks that come with isolation, overworking, and failing to take regular and proper breaks from work. Without the right management, this can lead to employees feeling stressed, burnt-out, and fatigued.
Employers should keep in regular contact with their employees who are remote working, to keep them updated and also to monitor their wellbeing. Managers should have the right training to recognise symptoms of burnout and other mental health problems that can come from isolation and overworking.
The employer should be prepared to work with the employee to find solutions to problems when they arise, for example, adapting working arrangements to suit them better. The employer should also ensure there is a working culture that encourages switching off properly at the end of the day, taking breaks, and not working long hours.
The employer should also be able to provide information to their employees about the professional help that is available to them, should they require it.
Remote workers will often also be lone workers. Lone working can come with many risks, including the mental health problems of isolation as well as other dangers concerning violence in the workplace. The employer should take steps to support home worker safety to protect lone workers, including providing necessary training and also keeping in regular contact.
The employee will also have a responsibility to take care of their own health and safety whilst they are working. Staff should keep in regular contact with their manager and always let them know about any risks to the individual’s physical or mental health or safety.
The employer and the employee should work together to find the necessary solutions, especially if any working arrangements need to be changed or adjusted to mitigate any risks to health and safety. The employee will be responsible for maintaining a safe working environment, and they should let the employer know if any changes occur that make it unsafe.
If your company needs HR support, Vero HR can help. We can provide you with a dedicated HR support service as well as advise on health and safety issues. Contact us to find out how we can help your business.