Employers urged to protect health and safety of pandemic home workers

The conciliation service Acas and union body the TUC have both urged employers to protect the health and safety of workers who are now working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The TUC argued that, with millions of people now likely to be home working for the first time, it was vital that staff:

  • Had access to safe working conditions in their own home.
  • Had access to relevant equipment and IT, including if necessary employers paying for Wi Fi for workers who did not internet access at home.
  • Had a clear understanding of what work they were expected to carry out, especially if this differed from their usual duties.
  • Took regular breaks and followed their usual working hours if possible.
  • Kept in contact with colleagues – by email, Skype, phone and chat for example – to avoid the mental health effects of isolation.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s essential for those people who can work from home to do so during the coronavirus outbreak. It’s important to have a safe place to work and to keep in regular contact with colleagues.

“But not everyone has the option of working from home, especially those running our vital public services at this difficult time. The rest of us working from home, not making unnecessary journeys and avoiding social contact will help keep them safe.

“And no one should be left out of pocket because they can’t get into their workplace or work from home.”

Acas’ guidance, meanwhile, has included sections on health and safety (including employer and employee responsibilities), equipment and technology, looking after mental and physical health, managing home working and childcare, insurance, keeping in touch and setting expectations. The full guidance can be accessed here.

Acas chief executive Susan Clews said: “The coronavirus outbreak is impacting all of our working lives at the moment. The government’s public health advice is to work from home where possible to help prevent the spread of the virus within the wider community.

“Employers and staff who are following this advice may be home working for their very first time and unsure about their rights or how to best manage the situation.

“Our new advice offers practical advice around homeworking that includes managing staff mental health, handling childcare responsibilities and dealing with remote working systems,” she added.

The British Safety Council, meanwhile, has launched a number of free online training courses to help people stay safe while working from home during the pandemic.

The courses will run until the middle of April. Two of the courses – Remote Workers’ Health Safety and Welfare and Mental Health: Start the Conversation – are aimed at all employees, while a third, Managing Stress Within Your Team, is targeted at managers. They can be accessed here.

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