In recent months many employees have been working from home, in line with government guidance to do so where possible. However, with a recent survey finding that just 13% of parents want to go back to pre-pandemic ways of working, with most people saying they would prefer to spend a maximum of three days in the office, as lockdown lifts many employers may find themselves responding to flexible working requests.
Our recent blog (available to read here) discusses how employers can respond to flexible working requests. However, once a request is approved for an employee to work from home some or all of the time, how can you help to ensure that they do so safely?
We interviewed Health and Safety Consultant Neil Hannaford on this topic, who says:
“As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers, and therefore you should ensure a suitable and sufficient risk assessment is completed for home working.”
This risk assessment should be documented if you have five or more employees, and whilst you don’t have to keep a written record if you have fewer than five employees, Neil recommends doing so, as this may help demonstrate that an assessment has been completed and potentially help protect you from any future employee liability claims.
H&S consultants highlight that working with display screen equipment (DSE) is a significant hazard to consider when carrying out a home working risk assessment. Incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations can lead to pain in necks, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands as well as fatigue and eye strain.
For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using DSE must be controlled. This includes them doing workstation assessments at home, to identify any measures needed. More info and assessment templates can be found on the HSE website here.
Dramatic increases in the use of Zoom during lockdown demonstrate that video calling has become much more a part of our personal and professional lives. But what about when most staff are back in the office – will this functionality be forgotten? And will it then be as easy for those working from home to feel part of the team?
Keeping in touch regularly with those working from home in important, to ensure they are supported, healthy and safe. Without this, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned, which can affect stress levels and mental health. They may even miss their colleagues!
These factors should also be considered within your risk assessment, and more information is available from the HSE website here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/lone-working/employer/index.htm (lone working) and: https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/signs.htm (recognising work related stress).
It may be helpful to undertake this risk assessment as part of considering how to respond to a flexible working process. If the risk assessment identifies that substantial costs will be incurred to ensure that the employee has a suitable home working environment, for example, then if this cost is prohibitive then it may be necessary to refuse the request on those grounds.
For further support on responding to flexible working requests and managing employees working from home, please contact a member of the View HR team. When the Coronavirus pandemic started to impact the workplace, we provided a free Temporary Working From Home Policy to support businesses, as things have become less temporary, it is important to reconsider this policy in light of the situation your business now finds itself in.
For health and safety support, the View HR team have previously worked with local reputable Health and Safety Consultants and are happy to pass on their details.