In April 2020 alone, 46.6% of the UK’s working population were doing so from home, with 86% of these employees doing so as a direct result of the pandemic.
HR and risk in the workplace:
For those 14% working at home already, however, the challenges associated with this proved no less daunting. With no escape to the office, many employees are still confined to small rooms, with inadequate equipment and restricted interaction outside of emails.
Limited communication with employers resulted in many reports of employee health and safety seeing a downward spiral. This is mainly since wellbeing was often foregone by employers in the strenuous effort to keep their businesses running.
Risk assessments were neglected as many employers believed their responsibility for their employees in this regard decreased, which was certainly not the case.
Why do you need a risk assessment for remote working?
By law, the working environment of the employee must be subjected to a suitable risk assessment by the employer. This covers remote workers too, as they are, of course, equally entitled to a safe working environment.
Not only should these assessments consist of physical health risks, but also mental health considerations to reduce liability for any occurred damages.
To what extent are employees liable?
Whilst the workplace health, safety and welfare regulations do not apply to domestic premises, employers may still be liable for injuries or accidents that occur during remote working.
If employees were to suffer a workplace injury at home and had not been provided with an adequate risk assessment or thoroughly assessed equipment, employers may be liable for injury claims.
What can employers do?
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the risk of remote workers must be managed to a suitable standard, with employers possessing the same liability for the accident and injury of remote workers as any other workers.
In most cases, the employer is unable to visit the employee to conduct this assessment, so questionnaires, self-assessments and video calls should be used as suitable substitutes.
In this case, suitable training must be supplied to ensure employees hold the right level of knowledge to help themselves to work in a safe environment, further to completing the assessment.
Furthermore, frequent communication is essential to help protect the mental health of those employees working remotely. Mental health issues have risen dramatically over the last two years, with many employees struggling to adapt to this new, isolated environment.
Both employer and employee should be involved in conducting the necessary assessment; although the employer remains responsible for the standard of the risk assessment.
To reduce the liability possessed by the employer, risk assessments must be up to date and easily available for employees to complete remotely.
Kevin Ashley is CEO and founder of myAko