Employer Responsibilities When Employees are Working From Home

Employees working from home? A workplace split into teams?

New ways of working require updated health and safety assessments. Have you done yours?

What the heck is a PCBU?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (‘the Act’) governs the standards and processes of health and safety in the workplace. The Act uses the terminology of a PCBU, meaning a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking - in essence, an employer. A PCBU has the ultimate responsibility to ensure the health and safety of its workers and any other persons is cared for at all times within a workplace.

Definition of Workplace

A workplace is defined as a place where work is being carried out and includes any place where a worker goes or is likely to be. Given the wide definition, it is likely that this includes workers who are working from home. At this point, you may be left wondering how an employer can satisfy their duty to ensure the health and safety of workers who are working from home. It is currently unclear how far this duty extends, although the best place to start is by conducting a risk assessment.

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment requires an analysis of any risks associated with the workplace and job structures. This is a very broad assessment encompassing any and every risk. A risk assessment is specific to the workplace and even between workers. An employer must assess how each risk will be eliminated, or if elimination is not possible, how the risk will be mitigated.

Each employee’s situation is unique

An employer should consult their workers individually to talk with them about their specific situation. What risks does their working from home environment pose? How can the employer help the worker eliminate or mitigate these risks? A good starting point is to consider the following:

  • How can you ensure workers’ physical environments are safe? Does the worker have a desk with a proper desk chair? Or will they be working from the kitchen table sitting on a stool? An improper work environment can cause short- and long-term injuries to workers.
  • How can you ensure workers maintain a work / life balance? Hyper-connectivity can be detrimental to employees’ mental health, in turn reducing productivity. An employer may consider setting strict work hours and reducing contact outside of this. Do your workers have separate devices to work from to ensure they aren’t accessing work after hours?
  • How can you ensure your workers don’t feel isolated? Working in an office can provide social connection. Consider putting aside time to catch up and check in with your workers.

We’re all in this together

Although the responsibility of health and safety is primarily with the employer, it requires everyone to work together. There is no better time than the present to get on top of health and safety.