In March 2020, huge numbers of people in the workforce were sent home to work during the Covid-19 pandemic. This enforced working from home has changed the working model for vast numbers of people worldwide and has changed many companies’ cultures forever. Many employers have reduced their office spaces as many employees have remained either working from home permanently or in a new hybrid model, only going into the office weekly or monthly.
With so many people working from home, employers have the same responsibility for them working from home as they would in the office. This applies whether employees work from home all the time or just occasionally.
Generally, the risks to workers at home are low. However, there are some areas that employers need to consider:
- Mental health issues
- Display screen equipment (DSE)
- the working environment
Keep in touch with staff when they work from home, and schedule calls and meetings regularly to ensure they are okay and manage their workload. If you have access to office space, schedule in-person meetings at regular intervals to catch up.
Employers need to ensure that their risk assessments cover home workers and that the employees conduct DSE self-assessments on their workstations at home. If an employee requires any equipment when they are working in an office, then they will still need that equipment when working from home. If they are working on a hybrid model, then you may need to duplicate what they have in the office for their home workstation. Review the assessment regularly in case anything changes.
- Like any worker, they must take care of their own health and safety whilst working from home. They must stay in touch with their manager and colleagues. Encourage them to have an open dialogue with their manager about their work and any issues they may be having.
- It is so important to stay in touch and communicate with line managers and colleagues to minimise the risk of feeling isolated or feelings of work related stress.
- Take regular breaks away from the workstation and stick to a normal routine and working hours. Home workers can often work longer hours as they don’t have to commute.
Health and Safety Guidelines for Home Working
- Ensure home workers have a safe working environment. Make sure the equipment is set up correctly every time it is used.
- Ensure there are enough plugs and that leads and cables are suitable and in good condition.
- Make sure the lighting is adequate.
- The work area should be clear and free from obstructions like loose cables.
- Make sure a DSE assessment is completed when something changes, for example, if the employee has a new chair or piece of equipment or if they have any health issues such as back pain.
- Home workers should be treated the same way as colleagues working in an office environment.
- Risk assessments must be completed.
- Home workers should be included in team meetings.
- Keeping in touch and communicating with home workers is key to successful home working to avoid feelings of stress and isolation.
- What legal responsibilities do employers have when it comes to health and safety for remote workers in the UK?
In the UK, employers have a legal duty to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees, including those working from home. This includes conducting risk assessments specific to home working, providing necessary equipment and training, and maintaining open communication to address health and safety concerns. Employers must also comply with relevant health and safety regulations, such as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
- Are employees in the UK responsible for their own health and safety when working from home?
While employees share some responsibility for their own health and safety, UK law places the primary duty on employers. Employees should follow guidelines provided by their employer, maintain a safe workspace, and report any issues or concerns. It’s crucial for employers and employees to collaborate to ensure a safe and healthy working environment.
- What are the main health and safety risks associated with home working in the UK, and how can they be mitigated?
Common health and safety risks for home workers in the UK include ergonomic issues, fire safety, and mental health concerns. Employers should provide guidance on ergonomic setup, conduct virtual assessments, and promote mental health awareness. Employees should follow these guidelines, maintain a tidy and safe workspace, and take regular breaks.
- How can employers promote the well-being of home workers in the UK beyond just physical health and safety?
Employers can support the overall well-being of home workers in the UK by offering access to mental health resources, encouraging work-life balance, and fostering a sense of belonging and connectivity through regular communication and virtual team-building activities.
- What should employees do if they believe their employer is not fulfilling their responsibilities for health, safety, and wellbeing while working from home in the UK?
If employees have concerns about their health, safety, or well-being while working from home in the UK, they should first raise these concerns with their employer. Employers are obligated to address and rectify any issues. If concerns persist, employees can seek advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), or if they are a member of a trade union, they can get in touch with their local representative.