Five home working considerations most employers forget

  • Health & Safety
woman sat a desk looking at laptop with headset on
Gavin Scarr-Hall - Director of Health & Safety at Peninsula

Gavin Scarr Hall, Director of Health and Safety

(Last updated )

Remote working… Chances are, your staff love the flexibility and extra time it gives them.

But there’s also a chance your employee’s remote working situation puts them at risk. And when your staff face risk, so do you: in the form of HSE fines or grievances.

To check you’re doing all you should to protect your remote staff, see if you know the answers to these important questions…

1.       Does your insurance cover remote working?

If you employ staff, you’ll have Employers’ Liability (EL) insurance. It’s a legal must.

It’s there to protect you against compensation costs and legal fees if your employee gets ill or injured at work. 

But if you switched to remote work since you first took out this insurance, there’s a risk your policy won’t cover home working staff. So, it’s essential you check your policy is broad enough to cover accidents that happen while employees work remotely.

Otherwise, you could face fines up to £2,500 for each day you don’t have the right cover.

Plus, you should advise employees to check their own household insurance. There’s a chance their policy won’t be valid if they start working from home.

2.       Is your employee’s electrical equipment safe?

When your employees work remotely, you can’t see their workstation.

And if your staff have unsafe equipment, that could bite your business in the form of work delays or accident claims…

So first, consider whether you’ve provided your employee’s electrical equipment. If so, you have a legal requirement to maintain it.

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the best way to do this. This involves:

  • User checks – Asking your staff to check for and report obvious signs of damage.
  • A formal inspection – A health & safety professional or employee with relevant training should carry out a more detailed check. The equipment will either ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ the test. The HSE provide guidance for carrying out these tests.

Remind your staff to shut down and switch off their equipment at the end of the day. Plus, regularly advise employees to flag any issues.

Alternatively, staff might use their own equipment. This brings a different risk: a data breach.

You’ll need to check that your employee’s devices are secure against cyber-attacks. Rolling out systems like two-factor authentication can help you protect sensitive data.

3.       Are there any lone-working issues?

While you’re supervising staff in the workplace, it’s much easier to call out and spot risky situations.

You don’t have that visibility when staff work from home – but you still need to protect them against work-related hazards.

This is especially difficult when remote staff travel elsewhere on their own, like meetings or conventions.

While lone-working hazards aren’t specific to remote staff, they’re much harder to manage when you don’t keep tabs on employee’ whereabouts. That’s because, without regular communication, you won’t know when staff are in a riskier-than-normal situation.

So, ask staff to tell you when they leave their normal working location. Alternatively, HR software with geofencing tech also alerts you when staff have left their usual environment.

When staff work without supervision, you need to carry out a lone working risk assessment by law. Consider the risks your staff face and plan how you aim to reduce these hazards. For example, this might mean offering dedicated training.

4  How do you define a ‘workplace’ accident?

A workplace accident is every employer’s nightmare. Because if there’s a chance you didn’t do enough to prevent it, you’re exposed to costly claims…

But if your remote employee’s accident happens at home, where does that leave you?

For example, if your employee trips up while making a cup of tea, this isn’t an accident you could realistically prevent. The phrase ‘whilst at work’ is crucial when it comes to planning control measures. Not everything a home worker does each day is ‘work-related’.

So, map out the full scope of your employee’s role, like attending meetings, visiting clients, or simply working from a laptop. Then, consider how these activities could pose a risk.

A dedicated risk assessment for remote staff should outline exactly what counts as a work-related accident. The more detail, the better – having watertight policies proves you’ve considered every possible risk your employee might face.

When you’re clear on what is and isn’t a workplace accident, staff won’t automatically assume you’re liable for a personal incident. It’s why it’s essential to share health & safety policies and update them in line with your employee’s role.

5. Are you breaching Working Time Regulations?

Unless your employee ‘opts out’ of the maximum working limit, it’s illegal for them to work more than 48 hours a week.

That’s the same for any employee – no matter where they work. But if your staff work remotely, you’ll face an extra layer of complication.

Because, while time spent traveling to work doesn’t usually count as work time, it could do if your employee works remotely. Travelling to work will count as working time if your remote employee has no other working location where they receive instructions on where to travel to, and if it’s their usual job to visit clients or other sites.

So if your employee has been working overtime – and it takes them a few hours to travel to a business meeting – this might push them over the legal maximum.

HR law is complex. A small oversight could leave you exposed to grievances or fines, so don’t take the risk. Check if you’re meeting legal requirements for remote staff now:

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