What risks are there regarding insurance obligations with employees working from home and what can companies do to mitigate those risks?
Risk and Insurance and Health & Safety obligations do not diminish because the workplace changes and employers still need to consider how to manage these areas:
When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:
- How will you keep in touch with them?
- What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
- Can it be done safely and has a risk assessment been completed?
- Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?
- How are things like equipment, expenses and tax implications handled?
- Does the IT equipment required perform efficiently, are system support measures adequate and is the homeworking environment as secure (physically and information-wise) as the office. Data protection is a key risk that needs managing regardless of where the employee is based.
- For those people who are working at home permanently, the risks associated with Display Screen Equipment will need to be considered. This includes doing home workstation assessments.
- Employers should also make sure their insurance covers employees and equipment out of the office and working from home.
Companies are also encouraged to keep in touch with lone workers and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe. If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned, which can affect stress levels and mental health.
Being away from managers and colleagues could make it difficult to get proper support, so put procedures in place so you can keep in direct contact with home workers, so you can recognise signs of stress as early as possible.
It is also important to have an emergency point of contact so people know how to get help if they need it.
What can employees do to protect themselves?
Working from home does not suit everyone. All individuals should assess themselves to some degree; their experience, their training and support needs, the home environment and care network (children and the wider family) and establish boundaries and a routine to enable them to perform, as near as they can, as they would in the office. Drinks and meal breaks are obvious opportunities to stretch legs, change position and rest eyes to avoid prolonged exposure to VDU’s.
Experience over the last year has seen staff working way outside of the traditional Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm contracted hours. Clients’ expectations have evolved to seemingly not recognise the traditional end of the working day. Employees need to exercise control over their working patterns and employers need to ensure this is the case. All of this is harder when the employee is remote.
Do employees need to be aware how this might affect their personal home insurance?
Employees should not only check there are no issues with them working from home with their household insurer but also with their mortgage provider or landlord.
What happens if you don’t do anything to support working from home?
Whilst it’s still relatively early days, it’s apparent that to attract and retain the best people, employers have to recognise that the last 12 months have pressed the fast forward button on the evolution of the workplace and those companies that embrace this will be very much more attractive to quality recruits.
Being flexible in your approach to working patterns where you can fosters trust with your team and recognises the fluidity of modern life.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give a business with regards to employees working from home?
It won’t surprise anyone to say that communication is a key factor in successfully retaining a healthy and happy workforce (in the office or remotely). As a very social species, we are hardwired with daily contact with friends, family and work colleagues and the sudden withdrawal can affect people in different ways.
Encourage the use of technology to replicate, where possible, the positive aspects of the workplace and make time not just for business conversations, but social ones too.
Written by Ian Vinall of J.M Glendinning.