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Legal opinion - do employers have health and safety liability for staff working from home?

(10 Posts)
handlemecarefully Tue 11-Nov-03 12:26:16

Perhaps I should have posted this on the 'returning to work' section but that area doesn't seem to get a whole lot of action!

I work at a hospital and the parking situation is dreadful. It doesn't bother me personally as I am at work early enough to secure a space, but I really feel for the patients and relatives who arrive at hospital often quite stressed anyway then have to do at least 4 circuits of the hospital site and queue for 40 mins before they get a space. I may be a stress head but if it was me I would combust!!!

I think senior hospital management should be pushing an initiative to get those staff, who have jobs compatible with home working (and there are quite a few support staff in this bracket)to work from home at least one day per week. This would allieviate pressure on parking... to help patients. However my direct line manager (not known for her 'can do' approach) put dampeners on this suggestion by saying that the hospital would be liable if an employee working from home had an accident (wot - like falling down the stairs?? - spilling coffee on their keyboard??).

I know there are a few lawyers out there - are there employers legal responsibilities for the health and safety of staff working from home?

Thanks v much

mears Tue 11-Nov-03 12:29:47

A risk assessment of the home has to be done by the employer. My friend is a field based officer and works from home. She is awaiting a risk assessment being done to ensure she has all that she needs. I don't know the ins and outs of it though. I don't think it has anything to do with falling down stairs though. More like her office equipment need etc. correct height of desk, chair etc.

handlemecarefully Tue 11-Nov-03 15:01:35

Thanks Mears,
Have since rung the health and safety Executive's helpline and they pointed me in the direction of an online leaflet. This leaflet confirms pretty much what you said

Twinkie Tue 11-Nov-03 15:08:46

Message withdrawn

Bozza Tue 11-Nov-03 15:31:37

My DH has worked from home for years without any assessment. He uses desk and chair purchased by us. Computer, fax and all stationery provided by his work.

dinosaur Tue 11-Nov-03 15:54:00

It isn't my area of law but I think that employers' liability does extend to employees working off-site. However as several people have already pointed out, that doesn't mean home-working is not possible - as Twinkie said, they should however do a home assessment to make sure that your working conditions are suitable and you're not going to get RSI/a bad back etc from sitting at an unsuitable workstation.

Bumblelion Tue 11-Nov-03 16:21:44

I do work from home one day a week (Monday) doing secretarial work that I either bring home with me on a Thursday (I don't work Fridays) or it gets faxed to me at home.

My company is very health and safety conscious and is Quality Assurance Credited - but saying that I have never had a Q.A. assessment carried out on myself in work, nor have I had a health and safety review carried out at home (which I am sure I would fail as I have two computers next to each other, sharing a printer, with a fax in between - countless wires on the floor for me to fall over and I always have a cup of coffee teetering on the edge of my desk.

Not sure whether I should have a risk assessment carried out or not - hav worke at the same company for 17 years (all my working life) and have never had one carried out yet although obvoiusly secretarial work is not a high risk job, even whilst pregnant. The only time it was mentioned to me was when I was pregnant with my third but they never got round to it before I left for maternity leave.

Ange8 Tue 11-Nov-03 22:17:32

I work at home two days a week and, as other people have said, the employer does still have obligations in terms of health and safety. That was the least of my employer's worries though! There are some other issues that you might need to consider - security of any documents that you bring home (including data security of information relating to individuals); the possible need to provide IT and other office equipment (which may duplicate equipment which will lay unused in the office on the days you work at home); whether any special arrangements need to be made to enable colleagues to communicate with you at home; other admin arrangements which might need to be made to support you...

I think the move to working from home is best driven by the staff who want it, however, rather than the employer (the employer should just say 'yes' and make it happen once you've asked for it, in an ideal world!). It doesn't suit everyone - aside from the isolation, not everyone has the space or the environment to carry out work at home (I know I'm forced to work in the office when my kids are on school holiday and it's my partner's turn to look after them - other people have elderly relations or other folk at home during the day, and just couldn't work without distractions).

Ange8 Tue 11-Nov-03 22:36:38

There's a good leaflet on the DTI website about teleworking arrangements here

handlemecarefully Wed 12-Nov-03 20:01:56

Thanks all - really helpful. Cheers

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