My staff work remotely – am I liable for their health & safety?

Gavin Scarr Hall - Director of Health and Safety

April 06 2021

It’s been over a year since the Prime Minister first told us to work from home. And if you’ve enjoyed the benefits, you might offer remote work beyond lockdown.

But whether your staff work from home permanently or just during lockdown, you need to keep up with your health & safety duties.

Here’s all you need to know about protecting your home workers:

What’s your responsibility as an employer?

According to the HSE, you have the same health & safety duties for home workers as any other workers. That means you need to consider whether your remote staff can carry out their jobs safely at home.

And it doesn’t matter whether your staff are working from home for good or just until restrictions lift – it’s up to you to keep your people safe.

But when you offer remote work on a long-term basis, you’ll need to take extra steps to prevent DSE risks…

Protecting your long-term home workers

When staff work remotely on a long-term basis – and they work with screens – you need to manage their DSE (display screen equipment) risks.

This means reducing any equipment or workstation-related hazards. For instance, staring at the screen for too long or a sitting in an unfit chair could cause eye strain and back ache.

So if you’re continuing remote work after lockdown, your staff will need to fill out a DSE workstation assessment at home. In plain English, a DSE assessment is a checklist of requirements for anyone who works with a screen.

If staff raise any issues in these assessments, you need to set out your next steps. These could include:

  • Providing staff with suitable equipment, like a supportive chair
  • Offering extra support for workers who have additional needs (like an employee with a disability)
  • Offering training and support

Remember to regularly review the assessment – especially when things change, like if your employee moves home or changes job role.

Looking after short-term home workers 

If you’re welcoming your staff back after lockdown, you don’t need to worry about DSE assessments.

Staff who temporarily work from home aren’t as vulnerable to DSE risks – as they’re only carrying out short-term work.

But that doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for their health & safety. You should still provide guidance to keep your staff safe and reduce DSE risks. You should tell your staff to:

  • Take regular breaks from the screen
  • Avoid awkward postures at the desk
  • Let fresh air into the room
  • Try to work in an area free from distractions

To spot any potential hazards, it’s important to check in with your staff regularly. You can do this on a weekly or monthly basis until your staff are back at work.

And to prevent any injuries down the line, educate your staff about the risks associated with display screen equipment. This means they can spot the risks before suffering from any effects.

Take steps to manage mental health 

As your employees are away from day-to-day contact, remote work could be an isolating and stressful time.

To support your staff, keep in touch with them on a one-to-one basis. Regular catch-ups will help you spot early signs of stress, like:

  • Taking more time off or being late
  • Acting withdrawn
  • A lack of motivation and confidence
  • Any mood swings or emotional reactions

And when you’re not sure about your next steps, you could direct staff to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). When your staff are struggling with personal or medical issues, an EAP offers ongoing support – they can speak to a trained professional whenever they need help.

Expert health & safety support, wherever you are

Whatever you have planned after lockdown, our health & safety experts have you covered. Whether you need help making sure your workplace is COVID-secure or managing homeworking risks, we can:

  • Create health & safety policies and guidelines
  • Support you through a COVID risk assessment
  • Provide 24/7 advice whenever you need it

To get started today, simply call 0800 028 2420. We’ll make sure you have everything you need to stay safe and compliant.

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