December 2021 - Working from Home Guidance (Covid-19)
Posted on 9th December 2021 at 08:50
The UK Government has announced the so called “Plan B” re-introducing some restrictions to help curb rising cases of the new variant of Covid-19. This includes the request to “Work from home when you can”.
Here’s a summary of your duties and some guidance for employers.
As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for people working at home as for any other worker.
Most of the time, risks to home workers will be low and the actions you should take to protect them will be straightforward.
Things you should consider as part of your risk assessment for home workers include:
• stress and poor mental health
• working with display screen equipment
• their working environment
You should talk to your workers about their arrangements, as working from home may not be suitable for everyone. For example, some people may not have an appropriate place to work or may prefer to come into the workplace for wellbeing, mental health or other reasons. You must make sure your risk assessment covers home workers.
It is important to keep a balanced and proportionate approach for home workers. In most cases you do not need to visit them to ensure their health and safety, but you should make sure they have a healthy and safe environment to work in.
You might decide to visit them, for example to meet any special requirement, such as for a worker with a disability.
When someone is working from home, consider:
how you will you keep in touch with them
the type of work they will be doing (and for how long)
how it can be done safely
if you need to put control measures in place to protect them
Practical ways to do this include:
providing advice and guidance on their home working set-up
using questionnaires or self-assessment tools
talking to them, for example using phone or video calls
Where your risk assessment indicates you need to take some action, your workers cannot be charged for this.
2. When people cannot work from home
You should agree alternative arrangements for people to use your workplace or another suitable location, if you decide:
someone's home is not a suitable work environment
reasonably practicable measures cannot be taken to protect them
If someone cannot work from home it is important that you take measures to protect people in the work environment. You must still control the risks and review and update your risk assessment. The following workplace controls remain unchanged:
• adequate ventilation
• sufficient cleaning
• good hand hygiene
You must continue to consult your workforce on health and safety matters, talking to workers and their representatives helps to reduce risk. There is different guidance in Scotland and Wales.
3. Stress and mental health
You must protect workers from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it. This applies equally to home workers as any other workers. Home workers will face many of the same issues as any other worker, but it can be more difficult to provide adequate support and maintain social links. People who are deprived of social contact through work can feel isolated or disconnected, bringing on pressure and stress or aggravating pre-existing mental health problems. Manage the risks of stress from working at home.
There are practical things you can do to help manage the risk of stress and mental health problems for home workers.
Talk openly with them about the possibility of them becoming stressed or mentally unwell
Involve them in completing stress risk assessments so they can help identify potential problems and solutions
Keep them updated on what is happening so they feel involved and reassured
Have regular keep-in-touch meetings or calls so they can share any concerns
Make home workers aware of any occupational support available to them
Take account the needs of the individual – if someone is a home worker for medical reasons you may need to meet their needs differently
Talk to your home workers
Without day-to-day contact, it is harder to recognise symptoms of stress or mental health problems so you may need to build in additional opportunities to ensure home workers are safe and well.
Keep in regular contact with your home workers, as a team and one to one. Meetings should be accessible to all your workers.
You may need to review how the work is done to reduce any potential causes of stress. Talk to your workers to find out if they are facing any issues.
Those working at home can sometimes work longer hours, making them tired and stressed. Speak regularly about workloads, demands and training needs.
Encourage home workers take regular breaks and use their annual leave. Make sure people aren't working too long to meet unrealistic deadlines or feel obliged to answer emails outside normal working hours.
Stress can build up over time and the causes can be work-related or from other issues. Whatever the cause, it's important that any worker gets help as soon as possible, and you should support them to do so.
Find out more
HSE provides guidance on managing stress at work. They also have talking toolkits that will help you have conversations with your home workers. Click here for more information: https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/index.htm
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