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With the UK in coronavirus lockdown and the majority of those employees

Employers Must Manage the Risk Surrounding Working at Home Employees

Apr 2020

With the UK in coronavirus lockdown and the majority of those employees and self-employed businesspeople that can work from home, the pressures on the UK workforce’s mental health are significant.

Stress and wellbeing are words being frequently used, whilst the ‘Britain Get Talking’ campaign[1] highlights how far up the agenda mental health has risen at this difficult time.

Whilst many employers will be under financial pressure and taking decisions on how to furlough or deploy staff, whilst also establishing what Government support exists to assist them[2], there are also other considerations to take into account. Effectively, very many businesses now have lone workers and their physical safety and mental health needs should may need to be addressed, despite all the other demands on employer time.

Physical risks to employees need to be taken into consideration, especially if any are in possession of any company takings that have not been banked or are keyholders to premises that contain valuable items or stocks. You may want to provide further instructions to workers in this category on how they may need to act and how to try to protect themselves, should be provided to workers in this category in line with company policies.

More likely, however, is the need for employers to keep in touch with their remote workforce, using technology, where possible, to prevent employees feeling disconnected, isolated and abandoned.

Employers have a legal duty to safeguard employees from stress at work, by undertaking a risk assessment of such pressures and acting on it, if they employ more than five people[3]. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a ‘Tackling Stress Workbook’ resource, which can be downloaded at its website and highlights six areas of work design which must be optimised, to prevent employee stress.[4]

The six areas are Demands, Control, Support, Relationships, Role and Change. All of these could be said to have been amplified during a time of social distancing and working from home. Demands on an employee could be very different and they are likely to lack control over how they work. They will probably require extra encouragement and support and working remotely may create more insecurity in working relationships.

Roles may have become confused due to new ways of working and the degree of change in their role will probably be significant. How this change is communicated by the employer can have a major influence on mental health.

This is likely to remain a very tricky area of risk management in the coming months but there are experts who can help you manage it. If you need to find one, to talk through ‘remote risk management’ and your employer responsibilities, please use our ‘Find a Local Broker’ tool.