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Duty of Care For Those Who Work From Home
January 25, 2021
Many Employers Were Forced to Turn to Remote Work Due to COVID-19
Many employers have to deal with a new grey area in regards to their duty of care obligations. With COVID-19 sending entire workforces into permanent states of remote work, employers still have the legal and moral obligation to provide a safe work environment, even if these employees never enter the office. Conducting assessments on the homes of remote workforces would be logistically challenging.
Some may think that because these employees are at home, the employer no longer has any obligation to provide a safe workspace. The truth is that these matters are now more complicated and vary depending on the region. This new grey area can cause several legal complications for an employer if new policies aren’t enacted as soon as possible.
Developing Lone Worker Policies
Employees who are working from home have a new definition: a lone worker. These types of employees can complete their work from home and need very little management. Many might embrace this form of work, but it can be highly isolating and not for everyone.
Duty of care is an ongoing obligation that has evolved due to COVID-19. It's an ongoing conversation that needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. Your existing policies should reflect the needs of your lone workers and outline how the company is taking proper measures to provide a safe workspace. This could appear in the form of training that includes topics on the appropriate use of company devices, time management software, and information on how workers can stay productive while in a home environment. Typical distractions can cause major issues in productivity, and oftentimes professionals are balancing both childcare and full-time work. Ensure that policies reflect the challenges presented to the workforce and address them before they become an issue.
Maintaining Staff Health and Wellness of Remote Teams
While it may seem simple, working from home comes with some difficulties that should be addressed before issues arise. Health and safety policies should be revised to reflect lone worker habits and include information on standards for home offices, proper seating, and posture, along with details on how to reduce the strain that comes from working on a computer for extended hours. Employers must make great efforts to ensure that each employee has the correct tools and training to remain connected with their team members and productive in a remote environment.
The isolated nature of remote work could potentially result in mental health challenges for many workforces. COVID-19 has already begun to impose a long list of mental health challenges for the general public, and companies could have a legal obligation to respond to such issues.
Mental wellness policies should address the staff’s long-term mental health and ensure that isolated workers continue to stay connected and properly socialized with team members. Physical health has also become a growing concern, as many societies have reported unhealthy eating habits during imposed lockdowns. Companies would be smart to consider enacting policies that promote the sharing of healthy eating habits and initiatives that encourage regular exercise.
Special Arrangements for Remote Workforces
While an employer is not liable for things like fire safety, ventilation, and evacuations in a worker's home, employers should still provide resources and information that outline proper procedures during an emergency. Workers with disabilities might face new safety challenges while working remotely, and employers should ensure that disabled employees are provided with a safe workspace at home.
Duty of Care Obligations Simplified by AFIMAC
Today employers are being challenged on their ability to maintain their operations and productivity while keeping large workforces safe and healthy. AFIMAC specializes in ensuring an employer fulfills their duty of care obligations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. AFIMAC can offer guidance and tools for any workplace, including digital screening tools that can protect a workforce from employees that have contracted the virus.
Pandemic business continuity services give employers the unique ability to control access, screen individuals entering the job site while aiding in the procurement personal protective equipment. Our workforce management tool PAM™ (Pandemic Application Management) gives you the tools to protect yourself, your business, and your workforce. Learn more about the available tools provided by AFIMAC.