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Homeworking - what you need to know

Many employers will now have to be making plans to ensure that their businesses and organisations can continue to operate during the current COVID-19 virus pandemic.

During this unprecedented time, many employees may be advised and instructed to work from home on a temporary basis. Employers have specific duties to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all employees. These duties include the employee’s workspace where employees are required to work from home.

When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:

  • How will you keep in touch with them?

  • What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?

  • Can it be done safely?

  • Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?

How to keep in touch

There will always be greater risks for lone workers with no direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong. Keep in touch with lone workers, including those working from home, and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe. Put procedures in place so you can keep in direct contact with home workers so you can recognise signs of stress as early as possible. It is also important to have an emergency point of contact and to share this so people know how to get help if they need it.

Their work activities

To facilitate working from home consider the following points:

  • Utilise online training and meetings

  • encourage employees to let you know if they have queries, questions or worries

  • telephone contact/video calling should be encouraged

  • tell employees what is going on with the rest of the team and the wider business – being aware of the full picture can help avoid employees feeling isolated

  • be aware that young or inexperienced workers may need additional support

  • set realistic KPI’s

  • discuss and agree daily with each member of staff what they are aiming to achieve for that day

  • think about your tone and wording

  • listen carefully to their tone of voice, are they feeling stressed or anxious?

Employee safety

For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using display screen equipment (DSE) must be controlled. This includes doing home workstation assessments. However, there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. So in that situation employers do not need to do home workstation assessments.

If possible IT equipment, in addition to laptops, should be provided.

  • Does the employee have the correct IT kit, for example screen, mouse?

  • Does the employee have a desk or makeshift desk? Can a kitchen table be used for example if a desk isn’t available?

  • Can the employee work comfortably? Will using cushions make the seating more comfortable?

  • Does the employee know how to get help with IT or kit issues?

  • Breaks should be taken from DSE work (a minimum of 5 minutes each hour).

  • The employee should change position regularly, get-up and stretch.

  • If an employee doesn’t have the correct work equipment, breaks should be taken every 25 mins to stretch.

Finally, if you are an employee working from home, you have a responsibility to take reasonable care of yourself and other people who may be affected by the work you are doing.

Employees must:

  • cooperate with their employer and follow their instructions,

  • protect themselves and others from harm during the course of their work, e.g. take care of any equipment provided and report any defects immediately to the employer,

  • report any injury arising from work activity to their employer immediately, and

  • follow procedures that have been put in place by their employer.

This is worrying and uncertain time for so many of us, if you have any further questions please contact us here. For the latest government issued guidance please click here.

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