LEGAL EAGLE: Advice regarding changes to workplace health and safety
How has health and safety in the workplace changed during the Covid-19 pandemic? And what are your legal rights? Hartlepool solicitors Tilly Bailey & Irvine explain.
Over the last 12 months the working world has changed beyond recognition and in particular it has changed the way in which we work.
It is not surprising that health and safety considerations may well have been overlooked by employers given the speed at which the move to remote working came about.
However, employers should still be aware of their obligations under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. Under this Act employers must conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all the work activities carried out by the employees, including home workers, to identify hazards and to assess the degree of risk.
Otherwise if an employee suffers an injury and no risk assessment has been carried out they could potentially bring a personal injury claim against their employer arguing the employers breach of duty of care towards them.
There are steps employers can take to ensure health and safety risks have at least been considered. They could ask employees to undertake a self assessment of their work space and determine any issues to mitigate health and safety risk. Alternatively, employers could send a communication to employees and encourage them to contact their line manager if they have any concerns about their home working set up.
As an employer you can:
Inform employees that are working from home that they have the same health and safety duties as other staff.
Remind them that they cannot have face to face meetings in their home with customers and must not give any suppliers or customers their home address or telephone number
Inform employees that they must use their knowledge, experience and training to identify and report any health and safety concerns to their line manager.
Mental wellbeing is important, and staff should work with employees to combat potential loneliness.
Employers should also consider the needs of individual members of staff to ensure they comply with any duties they have towards those individuals for example making reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities. This is particularly important given the mental health impact of isolation and employers should reach out to those with additional needs.
From a practical perspective employers should also check the details of their insurance to ensure they are covered for an employee who is working from home if they are using the employers business equipment.
Furloughed staff still have a duty of care. The best practice would see employers checking in with employees to encourage them to continue taking care of their mental health and wellbeing while indoors.
It has been anxious times for employees. Employers should connect with staff offering reassurance and communication (whether by virtual coffee breaks or group calls) to ensure strong employer relationships are nurtured even though we are all apart.
To discuss legal matters regarding business and employment law, or personal injury claims relating to health and safety in the workplace, call our solicitors in Hartlepool on 0333 444 4422 or make a free online enquiry.