Today is ‘World Day for Safety and Health at Work’ It’s back to the office for some, but not for everyone…
Covid may have taught us that businesses can still operate when the offices are closed, but it also demonstrated that working away from the office isn’t for everyone. Kelly Flageul, MD of Law At Work, gives some great advice to protect both employees and employers.
Today (28th April) is the ‘World Day for Safety and Health at Work’, an initiative by the International Labour Organisation to bring focus on the importance of occupational health and safety (H&S) systems in building resilience, so that we can face crises now and in the future – drawing on lessons learned and experiences from the world of work.
As we start to hopefully emerge from the global Covid crisis, we all know the pandemic has touched each and every one of us in some form or another. From loss of life, business or livelihoods to loss of income, health or resilience, this pandemic has taught us all to anticipate, plan, prepare and mitigate to maintain the health and wellbeing of our workforce in the future.
On World Day for Safety and Health at Work we would like to highlight two key areas for employers to consider going forward:
- issues arising when managing flexible working across multiple sites (both home and office), and
- how to ensure your occupational health and safety systems are supporting your new ways of working.
As we emerge from the pandemic, employers have to make some important choices – none more so than how their workforces will operate in the future. The opportunity to allow employees to continue to work from home, or to have a mixed model of office and home working, presents many challenges to leadership teams. These are on top of the need to factor in other considerations to make existing workplaces Covid-safe!
Whichever way an employer chooses to go, planning and preparation are key – if homeworking is allowed, then under the Health and Safety law the home-working environment must be treated as an extension of the workplace. This means that all applicable legislation applies in the employee’s home.
So before considering homeworking, the employer must be clear on a number of points:
- the contractual position
- the employee’s wishes
- the suitability and safety of the homeworking location including workspaces and DSE risk assessments
- provision of home-working equipment
- management and supervision of the employee
- data protection and confidentiality
- the employer’s liability
- administrative and organisational issues that will arise including ensuring equality of opportunities (such as training, promotion etc.) between employees
These can all be difficult issues to manage. The first stage for an employer will be to audit their proposals against current contractual provisions, legal obligations and the additional Health and Safety obligations. As each of these are specialist areas, in-house expertise or external HR or H&S resources may be required.
Occupational Health & Safety
The pandemic has also brought to light, more than ever, the need for occupational health services to act as a bridge between the world of work and the worlds of health, safety and healthcare. Occupational health provision has been key in the Covid pandemic to provide advice on risk assessments, personal protective equipment, return to work guidance and specialist assessments for vulnerable employees.
Occupational health systems also provide preventative functions that establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment and workforce. They can facilitate optimal physical and mental health at work and help you to adapt the workplace and roles to maximise the capabilities of your staff.
In moving forward in looking at staff health and wellbeing, a key element will be for business leaders to assess the health of their staff – both mental and physical, and to ensure that they spent time sitting down with their people and genuinely listening to any concerns they may have on returning to the workplace. Now is the time to be refreshing your health and wellbeing strategy (or writing one!).
If you find through your discussions that there are issues with workplace stress, the after-effects of Covid-19, or any other health issues then getting specialist advice from a qualified occupational health provider will give you the chance to manage any issues at an early stage and optimise the health of your employees and your business as we look to ‘build back better’.
If any of these issues affect your business and you want to discuss specific advice – and develop a plan for your business to thrive – then contact Law at Work. If you have specific occupational health needs, get in touch with the team at WorkHealth Jersey, Jersey’s only dedicated occupational health provider.