Do you allow your employees to work from home?

Modern technology and the desire for flexibility mean that in many industries having to be physically present in the workplace is not always necessary.  It is becoming increasingly more common for employers to allow employees to work from home on occasions. This can have flow on benefits for an employee’s well-being and the employment relationship in general. The Employment Relations Act 2000 has provisions that address a flexible working regime.

However, an employer must still consider their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 if an employee regularly works from home. This includes a duty to ensure the employee’s safety so far as is reasonably practicable.  It is easier to have control over safety while the employee is present in the workplace.  It can be much more difficult when the employee is working remotely.

One of the things an employer can do is to include in their policies guidelines on the parties’ health and safety obligations when working from home.  This may include a requirement that the employee makes sure their home workspace is comfortable and ergonomically sound, that they take regular breaks, and that their workspace is free from hazards.

Working remotely also has an additional risk of data security.  An employer’s policies should take into account how communications, whether through email or otherwise, are kept secure.  If your employee uses a laptop away from the workplace, then some consideration needs to be given as to the level of personal use which may inherently involve additional risk.

If an employee suffers an injury while working from home it is possible that WorkSafe may conduct an investigation or site visit, and having procedures and policies in place for minimising risk will be important.

For these reasons, if a business has employees who work from home, we recommend an employer’s health and safety policy include guidelines on maintaining a safe workspace, and some assessment of the work space should be undertaken to make sure it is suitable.  There should also be a policy that deals with data security with systems in place to record remote working arrangements, issues or concerns.