Cardinus’ head of health and safety, Peter Kinselley, gives us a rundown of the core considerations for introducing remote work into the workplace.

When developing or introducing remote working, organizations should consider formalizing their remote working programs by ensuring that the following issues are developed:

  • Remote working forms part of the employment contract
  • The workplace is defined so there is no ambiguity of where work takes place
  • Work equipment for home working is provided as part of the contract but is subject to a risk assessment
  • Remote working forms part of the occupational health and safety program and as a minimum is
    • Risk assessed – for both the physical and psychological home working environment and workstation together with an assessment of any individual risks
    • Staff are provided with training on these risk and remote working
    • Managers are training to support remote workers and to understand the risks
    • A workplace occupational health and safety program is developed to support remote working covering psychological and physical risks with additional support for those who have disabilities (including neuro-diverse conditions)

Reflecting the Practicalities of Remote Work

As a business, Cardinus Risk Management advises a range of clients on their responsibilities to keep staff safe when using office equipment (including laptops, PCs, tablets, and other forms of input devices).

While global health and safety legislation places a duty of care on the employer, the first steps to remote working are to ensure that remote workers have a suitable contract that reflects the practicalities of working remotely and protects the business.

Examples of these include considerations of what equipment is provided, who owns it, where the items can be used, are alternative locations such as a café a suitable workspace, will the items be insured by the business or the individual?

The contract should be clear about the worker’s primary place of work, which may well be their home address.

It’s crucial to make sure that remote workers understand that they have a personal obligation to carry out their duties for a certain number of hours per working day, and for taking proper rest breaks, given that the employer will be unable to physically monitor and enforce working time on a day-to-day basis.

Another issue to think carefully about is the equipment including furniture, IT equipment, and other items that a worker may be provided with, or required to use, in order to carry out their role remotely.

If the business provides equipment, consideration needs to be given to who will be responsible for insuring it in case of damage, or if it is lost or stolen from the worker’s home or place where they are remote working. There is a requirement to have arrangements in place for the maintenance of any business property and for its recovery if a worker leaves the business.

Whatever the decision on the provision and protection of property, it should be clearly documented in the worker’s contract.

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Employer’s Duty of Care

Having established a key principle that remote working can be an established part of an employee’s contract the employer needs to understand the legal obligation they have to their employee.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and the Health and Safety (Display Screen Regulations) an employer is required to:

  • Assess the risks of ill health to employees (physical and psychological)
  • Inform them of the risks and providing instruction
  • Train on controlling the risks

Further duties are applied if the member of staff meets the requirements of the Equality Act and requires workplace adaptations to support them and their condition

You should consider the impact of less formal (remote) working arrangements which can result in concerns that there might be a loss of occupational safety and health (OSH) protection for individuals.

The same can be said in respect of psychological risks. There is currently increased reporting from remote workers who are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression, and emotions such as loneliness, irritation, worry, and guilt.

If you report under ESOS and SECR you should consider how you will capture your remote working emissions. It is important that you consider the impact on your Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

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