The number of people who are currently working from home has grown significantly. Aside from the obvious safety benefit during the Covid-19 pandemic, it also offers other perks such as flexibility and work life balance. But who is responsible if you are involved in an accident while working from home?
In general terms, an employer is required to protect the health, safety and welfare of its employees. The home worker is owed the same duty of care as any other employee. The employer should first consider if the job and the employee are suitable for home working. This duty also extends to consideration of the employee’s mental health.
Under normal circumstances an employer should carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the work activities and take appropriate measures to reduce any associated risks. As a result of the Government’s guidance in response to Covid-19, home working had to be put in place very quickly by many employers. As a result, many employers were not afforded the opportunity to carry out detailed assessments. However, they should still have checked that any equipment supplied was in good working order and that the employee was supplied with any necessary personal protective equipment. Most home-based work is low risk office-type employment and in general, the employer is only responsible for the equipment that they supply.
It is good practice for the employee to carry out their own assessment of their home working environment. The employee has a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and should report all employment-related hazards to the employer. If, for example, a fault develops in a piece of work equipment provided by the employer, then the employee should report this to the employer. The employer has then been “put on notice” that there is a risk.
If you suffer injury because of equipment which has been reported to the employer as faulty or problematic, then it is far more likely that in law, your employer would be held responsible for that. The extent of your employer’s “control” over the equipment and set-up is very relevant. The courts may be sympathetic towards employers who have been facing genuine difficulties in keeping their business afloat during the pandemic. However, this does not mean that there is any lesser obligation to keep employees safe.
While working from home has obvious advantages, many people can feel isolated. School and nursery closures have meant that some were forced into a challenging world of juggling childcare and their job. While “stay at home” has been viewed as a necessary step in “the fight against Covid-19”, there are many people who would, under normal circumstances, never have chosen a role that required working in this way.
From the employer’s perspective, while there may be some obvious cost savings, there are likely to be losses too as remote employees can feel less invested in the enterprise, junior staff find less opportunities to learn from seniors, someone struggling is not so visible to the employer, and so on. Daily conundrums are not so easily “crunched” in an endless chain of emails or slightly stilted Zoom meetings. And the positive infuence of informal office rapport, words of support, cakes on birthdays and drinks at 5 are hard to ignore.
Clearly, countless businesses and employees have been able to sample home working even if it had never featured in their business or career plans. Whether it will still be the default way of working once we are finally out of lockdown remains to be seen.
If you have been injured in an accident in the last three years, please contact us for a confidential discussion.