Many workers have returned to their “normal” offices in coming months, but the idea of working from home has taken hold and seems likely to remain the norm for a significant percentage of desk-based jobs once the pandemic is past. Employers have been able to assess the benefits and drawbacks of homeworking during the lengthy lockdowns.
The economic and potential lifestyle advantages to employers and staff of ditching the daily commute are at the core of most discussions about homeworking, but less attention has been paid to the health and safety implications.
Issues may also arise in relation to employers’ liability and property insurances, homeworkers’ own domestic property and contents insurance cover and mortgage terms, arrangements for monitoring mental health, the effectiveness of RIDDOR where a worker is working remotely, the process and frequency for reviewing homeworking arrangements, and whether the employer or worker should bear the cost of making safety-related improvements to a home office environment such as providing a fire extinguisher, installing cable trunking to avoid slips and trips, and making improvements to lighting.
To date limited and in most instances rather sketchy guidance has been published on the health and safety aspects of homeworking by the HSE, employers’ organisations and trade unions. More and more informative guidance will hopefully be available soon.”
Mark Scoggins will throw a light on some of the knottier questions arising.
– Must an employer carry out a formal risk assessment of all its homeworkers’ workstations?
– Should the assessment extend beyond digital display screen equipment ergonomics to include for example PAT testing, fire safety arrangements, trip hazards, perhaps even an asbestos survey?
– Can the employer insist on making a physical inspection of a homeworker’s environment and equipment?
– Must homeworkers allow employers access to their homes to assess safety?
– Can the duty be sidestepped by moving homeworkers from employed to self-employed status?
– Can the HSE or other enforcing authority insist on being given access to a homeworker’s house to check on safety arrangements?