The past year has led to a significant rise in employees working from home. Whilst businesses and workers have adapted to this challenging change of scenery, it is important to keep in mind the duties owed by employers to their employees. Where an employee may now be working from home, the health and safety responsibilities incumbent on the employer remain unchanged.
Working with DSE – Display Screen Equipment
As would be expected to be conducted in any typical office workplace, employers should mitigate the risks associated with using display screen equipment for workers at home. This includes PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Employers must conduct a display screen equipment assessment to ensure the workstation of each employee is appropriate. Employers should additionally look to reduce risks and encourage regular breaks from display screen equipment. Furthermore employers must provide eye tests for employees and provide training and information for workers. There is no distinction in the law between those at a fixed workstation or home workers.
By conducting DSE assessments, employers can effectively reduce the risks from DSE work. Published guidance by the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors and the Health and Safety Executive have both published guidance used to inform employers on their duties to implement these assessments.
It is essential that employers regularly consider the appropriateness of their employees display screen equipment and workstation, be this in an office or home setting. Where employees report aches, pains or discomfort, or working long hours without adequate rest, employers should have consideration for whether additional steps within their work set up are needed to alleviate the employee’s issues.
Where an employee is working from home on a temporary basis, it will not be required to conduct a full DSE assessment. This is due to there being no increased risk in using DSE for those working at home temporarily.
Lone Working without Supervision
Given the remoteness involved in working from home, there are increased risks for employees with no direct supervision to assist if issues arise. Employers should ensure regular contact with lone workers to protect against feelings of disconnection, isolation or abandonment, which in turn can lead to marked stress levels and deterioration in mental health.
The same responsibilities towards supervision, education and training owed by the employer to the employee remain unchanged. This extends to the employer implementing enough control measures to protect their employees working at home.
Stress and Mental Health
As touched on, the very nature of working from home and associated isolation, can lead to the deterioration in an employee’s mental health. The absence of a supervisor or manager being immediately available may make it difficult for employees to get proper support.
Employers should ensure the implementation of procedures to enable direct contact with the home worker so their manager is able to effectively identify whether the worker is showing signs of stress. The Health and Safety Executive Stress Management Standards notes the importance of workplace relationships and support of other workers.
It is important that employees raise concerns regarding increased stress to their manager at an early stage. If the stress is work bound, then speaking with a manger will allow them the opportunity to help and prevent the situation deteriorating. If the situation is extraneous to work, it is important to still address this with your manager in order that they understand your present situation.
Employers have a duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees at work. This duty extends to include the assessment of risks arising from hazards at work, including work-related stress.
Blog by Conor Kenny, Solicitor