Health, safety and wellbeing
When people are working from home, employers and employees both have health and safety 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 and workplace, 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 supporting ongoing homeworking questionnaire from the 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
When working at home, people might experience problems such as:
- stress, anxiety, loneliness or other mental health issues
- finding it harder to switch off from work
- working longer hours
- feeling pressure to work while ill ('presenteeism')
- physical pain if they do not have the right working equipment, for example back 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, and take sick leave if they’re not well enough to work
- 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:
Checking insurance cover
Employees should check there are no issues with them working from home, with their:
- home insurer
- mortgage provider or landlord
It's a good idea for employers to remind their employees to check this. Employers should also make sure their insurance covers employees working from home.
Equipment and technology
It's important for employees to have the right equipment and technology needed to work from home effectively. This can also help avoid extra stress.
Things employers, employees and any representatives should agree on include:
- what's needed to do the job, for example a reliable and secure internet connection or a suitable desk and chair
- who will provide or cover the costs of equipment and repairs
- technical support for setting up any new equipment or technology, including any training
Employers should have clear policies around work equipment and technology, including:
- how to report any issues and to who, for example the IT team
- how they will monitor use and handle information
- rules around data protection and cyber security
- what to do if a work device is lost or stolen
Employers should regularly check with employees to assess how technology and equipment is working, and make any improvements. For example, checking:
- IT systems are handling the number of staff working remotely
- the level of IT support needed for homeworkers
- any extra equipment that might be needed from time to time, for example headsets or stationery
If staff use 'display screen equipment' (for example, computers, laptops or smartphones), employers must protect them from any health risks. Find out more about working safely with display screen equipment from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
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:
- managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse on the CIPD website
- 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
- Women's Aid – domestic abuse support for women and children
- Respect – provides help for perpetrators
- Galop – LGBT+ anti-violence charity
The Bright Sky app is for anyone who's experiencing domestic abuse or is worried about someone else.
Employers can get advice from: