Employers and employees should be practical, flexible and sensitive to each other’s situation when working from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Health and safety
By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees, including those working from home.
Although workers may be away from the workplace, health and safety legislation still applies to their activities. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act and associated Regulations and Guidance should be applied.
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 places the general duty on the employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees including home workers. It also places duties on employees to take reasonable care of their own safety and that of others. They must cooperate with their employer to help them meet their legal obligations.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 places a duty on employers to assess and manage risks to their employees and others arising from work activities.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations (DSE) 1992
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations (DSE) 1992 gives guidance to employers on how they can protect employees from any risks associated with using display screen equipment like computers and laptops.
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 explain that employers must ensure that work equipment is maintained, in efficient working order and in good repair.
During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s very unlikely that employers can carry out usual health and safety risk assessments at an employee’s home.
However, an employer should still check that:
• each employee feels the work they’re being asked to do at home can be done safely
• employees have the right equipment to work safely
• managers keep in regular contact with their employees, including making sure they do not feel isolated
• reasonable adjustments are made for an employee who has a disability
If changes are needed, employers are responsible for making sure they happen.
Employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety.
Employees must co-operate with their employer to help them comply with health and safety duties and use all items provided by their employer in accordance with the training and instructions they receive.
Those employees working from home should keep in regular contact with their manager. They should also tell their manager about:
• any health and safety risks
• any homeworking arrangements that need to change
Equipment and technology
Employers are responsible for the equipment and technology they give employees so they can work from home.
The employer should:
• discuss equipment and technology with the employee
• agree what’s needed
• support the employee to set up any new equipment or technology
Employers should check the details of their insurance to make sure they’re covered for an employee working from home if they’re using business equipment. It also needs to cover them against a claim by a third party.
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