2. Employer responsibilities
By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees, including those working from home.
Employers must conduct a risk assessment of their employees’ work activities, including any work from home.
Under the law, a risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’.
If the employer is not able to carry out a full risk assessment due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they should provide their employees with information on working safely at home. This could include asking employees to carry out a self-assessment of their workspace and equipment.
Employers can use the Preparing for homeworking during coronavirus questionnaire from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
If changes are needed to make sure an employee can work at home in a safe and healthy way, employers are responsible for making sure they happen.
Employers should review risk assessments regularly to make sure employees’ working environments at home remain safe and healthy.
Find out more about what employers should do from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety at work.
Anyone working from home should keep in regular contact with their manager. They should also tell their manager about:
- any physical or mental health and safety risks
- any working arrangements that need to change, for example because of caring responsibilities
It’s important that employees and managers communicate regularly and work together to find suitable solutions.
Looking after mental and physical health
While working at home during the coronavirus pandemic, people might be experiencing problems such as:
- stress, anxiety, loneliness or other mental health issues
- feeling unhealthy as they’re not able to take their usual exercise
- finding it harder to switch off from work
- working longer hours
- feeling pressure to work while ill (‘presenteeism’)
- physical pain because they do not have the right working equipment, for example musculoskeletal problems caused by an unsuitable chair and desk at home
Everyone should make sure they:
- look after their mental and physical health, for example by getting support and doing regular exercise
- take regular screen breaks, the rest breaks they’re entitled to, and switch off their work equipment at the end of the working day
- manage their work-life balance, for example by having clear start and finish times
- know what sick pay and leave they’re entitled to
- have the necessary equipment and information to work safely
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience will be different. Employers and managers should talk together with their employees and:
- follow the law on working hours
- encourage sharing of any problems they may have
- not make assumptions about what support might or might not be needed
- agree on what support may be needed, for example if an employee with a disability needs reasonable adjustments
For more advice, see:
Domestic violence and abuse
During the pandemic, there has been an increase in domestic violence and abuse. It has also become more difficult for people to get away from the person abusing them (the ‘perpetrator’).
Employers have a legal duty of care to their employees and should:
- look out for signs of domestic abuse
- respond appropriately
- support someone who is experiencing domestic abuse
- keep a record of incidents at work and when employees report domestic abuse, and any actions taken
See guidance on looking out for signs of domestic abuse on GOV.UK.
How an employer can help
Employers should make clear what support is available if an employee is experiencing domestic abuse, such as:
- finding a way to communicate safely, for example by text message if calls are not possible, or a different email address if their email is being monitored by the perpetrator
- agreeing on a code word or hand signal for someone to use to alert others that they’re experiencing domestic abuse
- arranging another place they can do their work instead of at home
- being flexible around working hours
- time off, for example to attend support appointments
- helping the person get other appropriate support
Employers should consider having a domestic abuse policy. They should develop it in consultation with employees and any trade union or employee representatives.
The policy should set out:
- a clear commitment to taking the issue seriously
- common signs of domestic abuse
- the support available for employees and managers
All employees should be made aware of the policy and be able to access it.
Employers can download:
- a handbook on managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse on the CIPD website (PDF, 567KB, 32 pages)
- a domestic abuse toolkit for employers on the Business in the Community (BITC) website
Help and support
You can find more guidance on domestic abuse from GOV.UK.
People experiencing or perpetrating domestic abuse can contact organisations including:
- Refuge – national domestic abuse charity, also provides a 24-hour helpline freephone: 0808 2000 247
- Women’s Aid – domestic abuse support for women and children
- Respect – provides help for perpetrators
- Galop – LGBT+ anti-violence charity
Employers can contact: