Are you adequately insured for employees working from home?
The past few months have seen homeworking become the norm for many businesses as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
In fact, new research from the Chartered Institute of Professional Development shows that employers expect the proportion of people working from home on a regular basis, once the crisis is over, will increase to 37% compared to 18% before the pandemic.
Employers also expect the proportion of staff who work from home all the time to rise to 22% post pandemic, compared to 9% before lockdown measures started to be imposed. *
With this shift happening almost overnight for some businesses, it can be forgiven if the whole experience of closing an office and shipping out office equipment to multiple locations was overwhelming. But, now that the dust has settled, have you dotted all of the I’s and crossed all of the T’s?
When it comes to employees working from home, Business Liability Insurance closely dovetails with both Health and Safety and Employment Law. Done right, you can ensure that not only are you compliant, but you are also a responsible and lawful employer, done wrong and you can leave yourself vulnerable to prosecution.
With that in mind, here are the two areas you need to closely consider when it comes to an employer’s lawful duty of care to their home working staff;
Have you provided office equipment for your staff? If so, have you provided their addresses to your insurer? Are they aware that the £20k of office equipment once stored on your business premises is now split between several locations? If you haven’t, then you should really consider registering these additional temporary addresses for your business, ensuring your equipment is housed in a safe and compliant environment whilst you are at it.
If you are only just thinking of closing your office and keeping your staff/sending your staff home to work, you will also need to ensure that any equipment that you are sending home with them is fully insured during transit.
As an employer, you have an obligation to ensure your staff are safe and comfortable, so all equipment sent home must be safe, suitable and meet their needs as an employee.
Once your staff are all set up, what about your office? If you are keeping it but leaving it empty or closed, have you told your insurer? An empty office poses a high risk of theft so it is important that you advise your insurer so that they can update your policy accordingly. You will also need to ensure certain actions are taken to protect your insurance policy, such as turning off your utilities or boarding up your windows if necessary.
As an employer, you have a lawful obligation to support both the physical and mental health of your employees.
Physically and in a ‘usual’ situation, this would involve you or your Health and Safety Manager conducting a risk assessment of your employee’s workstation and providing support or additional equipment, if needed.
It is quite unlikely that you are able to visit your employees, in their homes, to carry out a similar risk assessment but there are things you can do. Have you ensured they have the additional equipment they need, such as wrist supports? Have you sent them information about sitting at their desk properly? Do they know their eyes should be in line with the top of their screen? Can you prove that you have provided this duty of care?
In addition to physical health, the mental health of your employees, particularly during these trying times, needs serious consideration. The value of regular Microsoft Teams Meetings (as an example), emails, newsletters or regular phone conversations when it comes to covering yourself against stress related employment liability claims is extremely high.
Allowing an open forum for communication enables you to monitor and manage the mental wellbeing of your staff, many of whom are potentially worried about their jobs, the business, their workloads, have their own family worries etc.
You also need to ensure you are allowing time off if required and that staff are working during regular work hours only (unless they are undertaking work outside of normal business hours, as outlined in their employment contract).
This also relates to your furloughed staff, who are still your employees and still have the same rights – therefore you have the same lawful responsibilities. Maintain regular contact with furloughed staff to monitor their mental wellbeing too and be sure to keep your Employer’s Liability Insurance – you still need it, even if your entire workforce is furloughed.
In a nutshell
When it comes to your business, there are two areas of insurance that you need to pay attention to; your assets and your liabilities. Even if your staff are furloughed, you have a lawful responsibility to them and therefore need to maintain your insurance cover.
Business Liability Insurance closely dovetails with both Health and Safety and Employment Law. In extreme circumstances, if an employer hasn’t adhered to Health and Safety and Employment Law, they can potentially open themselves up to prosecution.
Here at Trust Insurance Group Services, we can ensure that you are adequately covered for any employees who are working from home or are furloughed and assets. We can also ensure that your business premises remain covered, whether your premises are vacant or you are operating on a smaller scale.
We can confidently advise you of what you need to do so that you are in a great place to defend yourself, should an employee try to make a claim against you, for injury or their mental wellbeing.