With the onset of COVID-19, many companies, including mine, have had no choice but to send their staff home to work. In the short-term there was no alternative, but long-term, what are the consequences of staff working from home? Are companies who are contemplating offering work-from-home as a permanent option for employees setting themselves up for litigation?
Complaints of sore necks and backs are on the rise due to poor home-office setups. Incidental exercise that normally occurs throughout the working day is decreasing as employees become more sedentary in their home office environment. This, too, can lead to health issues.
Potentially employers can be exposed to two types of claims:
breach of duty of care
breach of their statutory obligation to provide safe systems of work.
Provision of equipment, such as monitors, keyboards and chairs, can help, but what if the available home space isn't large enough to set up an ergonomic environment? How can employers try to mitigate their potential exposure to the risk of litigation? Having staff complete questionnaires, conducting reviews of work spaces via video meetings, and talking staff through their set-up at home office can help.
Another risk that employers may face is exposure to mental health injury claims. Feelings of anxiousness and isolation can adversely affect the mental health and well-being of employees. By checking in regularly with employees, keeping communication lines open and providing workplace behavioural training may not only help to mitigate risk of litigation, but also have a positive, lasting effect on the overall working relationship between staff and employers.
Questions? Contact Mark Da Silva, Principal Lawyer