What duty of care do businesses have for homeworkers?
When lockdown restrictions are eased, it could still be several months before many people return to the company office. By law, an employer has a duty of care for the health and safety of workers, whether they are at home or in the workplace.
Government sources have said that social distancing measures will continue to be needed after lockdown restrictions are lifted. This may not be practical in many offices, so workers will continue remote working. When all restrictions have been lifted, companies will re-evaluate their working practices and may decide to make homeworking permanent for many of their teams.
Working from home is seen by many as safe, requiring no protective workwear, but there are still risks. Trailing cables around a desk can be dangerous, manually handling heavy boxes of files or electrical equipment can cause injury, dust and clutter is a fire hazard, workers spending long hours typing in front of a screen can suffer repetitive strain injuries and eye strain, and uncomfortable chairs can cause back pain.
As well as physical injuries, there are mental health issues for lonely workers isolated at home without the company of their colleagues.
If a remote worker is injured due to employer negligence, the Health and Safety Executive will investigate and may prosecute.
It is challenging for organisations to monitor the health and safety of their homeworking employees. With the help of Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp, home offices can be monitored. Video meetings and regular colleague social chats are good ideas, and workers can be supplied with ergonomic chairs and desks.