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A Move to Remote Working – Advice for Employers

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In response to the recent social distancing measures that have been put into place as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, employees across the UK have found themselves unexpectedly working from home, many for the first time. It may be that, as an employer, this is a first for you too.

We’ve compiled a short article which outlines what employers should expect with this move to remote working, including your responsibilities and duty of care for your homeworking staff.

 

The logistics of remote working

When the announcement was made by the Government that, wherever possible, people should consider working from home, companies and businesses up and down the country had to set plans into place to move employees from offices and provide them with the equipment needed to set up a home workstation. This will have included tackling technical challenges, such as providing remote access to company systems, as well as other challenges relating to providing necessary equipment, furniture, hardware and software for those that need it. There was a lot for employers to prepare in order to see their company successfully move to one which is managed and operated by staff working remotely, and it all had to be done whilst minimising disruption to the day-to-day running of the business as much as possible.

With such a sudden change having to be executed in such a short space of time, it’s unsurprising that some may have forgotten a few key steps in their move to remote working. Here’s our remote working checklist for employers, so that you can ensure your legal obligations are being fulfilled, and your employees protected.

 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

These regulations, now in place for over twenty years, highlight the employer’s responsibility for the health and safety for all of their employees, including those who work from home, as far as reasonably practicable. Under these regulations, you (as an employer) have the same legal duty of care for the health, safety and wellbeing of an employee working remotely as you would for an employee working on company premises.

Some key things to consider:

 

Check your employers’ liability insurance

This should be top of your list, as before you get your employees all set up and ready to work from home, you’ll need to know that home working is something your liability insurance covers. It’s a good idea to contact your insurance provider and ask them for a breakdown of the terms of your policy. If it doesn’t cover homeworking, you’ll need to request for this to be added. Without this in place, you run the risk of putting yourself and your business in jeopardy should an employee injure themselves whilst working from home.

 

Carry out the necessary risk assessments

Under the aforementioned regulations, every employer shall make “a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk to health and safety of his/her employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work.”

For those who would usually be working in an office, this would mean an assessment of the employee’s workstation and general working environment, including their desk, chair, lighting, computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, employers are advised to conduct any assessments remotely where possible, avoiding making visits to employees’ homes in order to follow Government guidance on social distancing. In many cases, a working environment may be reviewed by the employee themselves by completing a self-assessment questionnaire. This questionnaire will need to be designed to identify any possible risks as well as any individual requirements. In an effort to complete this step as quickly as possible, if your company does not already have a self-assessment questionnaire in place, you may be able to use a pre-written template available online.

 

Work to reduce risks as much as possible

If certain risks are highlighted in the self-assessment questionnaire, you should then take necessary action in order to mitigate those risks. This may involve employers having to visit an employee at home, although any action that can be carried out by the employee themselves should be taken to avoid the need for a home visit during the pandemic.

You will need to be considerate of the individual needs of your employees, including any expectant mothers or those working with a disability.

 

Looking to the long-term

Whilst working from home may be a godsend for some, offering a relief from the daily commute and a greater sense of independence than perhaps they would have in an office environment, unfortunately this will not be the case for all employees, and some may struggle with the sense of isolation. It’s important to acknowledge that your duty of care as an employer extends to the mental health and wellbeing of your employees.

Whilst some may be liberated with the recent move to remote working, the lack of social contact will remain a challenge for those who are ill-suited to home working and, as no one knows how long we will be in lockdown for, employers should consider more long-term risks, such as the impact of remote working on the stress levels and mental health of some employees.

The best way to know whether or not your employee is struggling is to ensure regular contact is being maintained, not just between you and your team, but between team members as well.

 

Do you need further advice relating to HR and Employment Law and your responsibilities as an employer during the COVID-19 outbreak? Click here to see our responses to some frequently asked questions, or contact the team today on 01282 433241.

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