Keeping homeworkers safe
Sep 2, 2022
As homeworking continues to be the order of the day in many UK businesses, employers must take care not to become complacent. Workers may be out of sight, but they should never be out of mind, not least when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
The law places strict responsibilities on employers to take reasonable care of staff. Most employers will be familiar with this in the context of the traditional workplace – the office, shop, factory, etc. However, not all employers see homeworking as requiring the same types of ongoing checks.
So, what should employers be doing?
The most obvious action to take is a risk assessment of the homeworking environment. This includes the workstation; does the worker have a suitable desk and chair? Is their computer/laptop set up properly? Has the worker been told about the importance of taking breaks from screen work? Identified risks should be addressed, assessments repeatedly periodically, and homeworkers encouraged to let their employer know about any changed circumstances or issues.
As well as physical risks, such as neck injury caused by a poor sitting position, employers must be mindful of the mental pressures that homeworkers may suffer. Some workers take to homeworking straightaway, enjoying the space and solitude it allows. Others may not. Some may find the novelty wearing off. Each worker is different and so employers must take care to keep a close eye on how individuals are managing, day-to-day. While some employers will fear a dip in productivity as homeworkers settle into a more ‘relaxed’ way of working, there’s also a very real danger that some workers will find it difficult to switch off. This mightn’t lead to more work being done; in fact, it often means the opposite, with stress piling on for good measure.
Homeworkers’ mental wellbeing should be a key concern for all employers. And good communication is key to keeping things on track. Create an environment in which homeworkers feel comfortable in discussing problems or concerns with their manager, and make sure managers are trained to maintain contact with workers, spot issues and deal with them.
Employers could encourage employees to build these Acas suggestions into their day:
- Clear start and finish times
- Switching off equipment at the end of the day
- Taking regular rest breaks
In addition, Acas recommends helping to reduce a homeworker’s stress by:
- Agreeing regular contact
- Helping them avoid feeling left out and lonely, instead feeling trusted and supported
- Making sure they know how to get help with their mental health, how to report IT issues, and know what is expected of them
For advice about homeworking or any other employment law issue, contact us on 01264 353411 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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