It is critical that employers are aware of their obligations to their employees when they are working from home.
Employers owe the same work healthy and safety obligations to employees who are working from home as they do to those employees in the workplace. Employers’ obligations extend to general WHS standards and protections, as well as to liability for workplace injuries and workers compensation claims.
Therefore, employers should set out requirements for working from home in a policy or procedure, and should ensure employees comply with the requirements before allowing them to work from home. The most important thing to ensure is usually that employees have an adequate, dedicated workspace.
Depending on the nature of the work, employers should consider in particular the risk to the employee of any injuries and the effect that the employee’s proposed workspace could have on their posture. For example, for a typical office type job, the employer should consider the following:
The best practice is for employers to require employees to submit a photo of their workspace and a checklist confirming that the work area is compliant with the basic standards required by the employer, such as those listed above.
Employers should ensure that having employees working from home does not compromise the security, privacy or confidentiality obligations of their business.
This is particularly important given the almost complete reliance on digital communication. For instance, an employee scanning confidential documents onto a home computer which is accessible to family or housemates is likely to be a breach of the employer’s legal obligations.
Employers should get advice from an IT specialist to ensure their systems are secure.
Employers should ensure that employees have adequate public liability insurance for their home to protect them in circumstances where a third party may be injured during working hours.
Working from home can be a big adjustment for employees. There are some basic recommendations that employers can provide to their employees to make the adjustment easier and to maintain motivation and efficiency:
Employers should encourage employees to reach out for assistance from the workplace if they feel they need it or, if appropriate, for professional support.
Johnston Withers’ employment lawyers have experience in providing advice to employers in relation to and workplace policies and procedures and industrial relations. If you’d like advice or direction from a lawyer, please contact us on (08) 8231 1110, or get in touch online.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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