For businesses, employers and employees alike, this year has been a long and understandably tough one for all involved. From changes in how and where we can work to the looming stress of doing so through a global health pandemic, we’d all be forgiven for finding the last 12 months some of the toughest in our lives.
From the physical demand of lockdown, including working from home in environments not fit for purpose or giving up a physical job in replacement for an office one, to the mental health strain thousands of people are suffering this year, employers may be wondering what types of support and cover is out there for them in the case of claims made by employees. Here, we’re digging a little deeper to find out what employers can do to protect themselves and their staff as the pandemic progresses.
Why We Need To Keep An Eye On Employees
In an average year pre-covid, mental health at work was an already prominent issue. Workplace-related stresses and anxieties accounted for around 44% of illness at work, causing around 54% of working days lost. Over the past year, this is expected to have risen substantially. Mental health charity Mind conducted a study this year which revealed that over 60% of adults and 68% of young people have claimed their mental health had gotten worse over the course of lockdown. This was particularly the case for those with existing mental health conditions but for businesses, this has meant additional pressure on the safeguarding and care for their employees.
Physical harm can also occur when working from home, including things like repetitive strain injury, back pains and other aches from poor work conditions. Employees have taken to dining room tables, sofas, breakfast counters and more and this has led to concerns like a bad back, repetitive strain injuries and other aches and pains. Employers still have a responsibility to provide a comfortable and healthy work environment, which can include providing the right equipment for that to be possible and checking in with staff on a regular basis to see how they’re doing and if they need any additional support.
Is The Business Still Covered Against Claims?
Employer’s Liability insurance usually offers a certain level of cover for remote workers, but this will ultimately depend on the policy you have. This cover may also not provide protection for all staff working from home if not clearly specified. Typically, an Employer’s Liability insurance policy should cover any ‘clerical activities’ conducted at home or remotely, but there a few grey areas to consider.
One of the most prominent is that working from home and any injuries or illness sustained while doing so may not always be considered as being ‘in the course of employee’s work’. The law on remote working and insurance policies is often confusing to navigate, so it’s always best to get a clear idea from your insurance provider as to what’s covered or ensure that the policy is sufficient enough to cover all employees. For help or guidance in finding the Employer’s Liability insurance policy to suit your business model best, feel free to get in touch with our team for help and advice.
Conduct Risk Assessments
Risk assessments are a valuable tool for businesses for a number of reasons. Not only do they protect employees and staff against potential risks, but they also protect employers from being sued or having to pay out of pocket in the case of injury or illness, providing the results of the assessment are handled correctly. Taking action to reduce risk or eradicate it completely will help to ensure that the employer isn’t held liable, but that the employee is protected.
Insurers can sue employers if the employee’s injury or illness appears to be due to neglect, and risk assessments could be the difference between a neglect claim, or a simple accident at work. Health and safety management should and does extend beyond the office or workplace and into the employee’s home, so it’s vital that all employers take the time to conduct and guide employees through self-risk assessments to determine any downfalls and what can be improved.
Mental Health Support
Mental health support during such a difficult time can make a huge difference with employees, particularly those in stressful roles already. While the job itself may not have changed, employees may find their usual day-to-day activities come with increased pressure due to outside factors, including home distractions, reduced or no colleague support and in some cases, even reduced equipment at their disposal. Even something as simple as not having a printer can make the job harder or mean changing up how an employee works, and this can have a lasting impact on mental health and stress levels.
As an employer, there are a few measures that can be put into place to provide support, including:
- Briefing managers and HR on mental health risks associated with working from home, and with the Covid-19 pandemic
- Providing mental health awareness information and activities to aid colleagues in spotting the signs of poor mental health, and create a culture where people can feel comfortable speaking and sharing their worries
- Communicate regularly with employees and encourage activities that promote physical, mental, social and even financial wellbeing.
While not all Employer’s Liability insurance policies have, or will cover every eventuality while staff work from home, it is a secure buffer to ensure that employees and the business remain protected in the case it’s needed. In the meantime, providing the right physical and mental support is more important now than it’s ever been and with the right risk assessments, activities and supportive culture between colleagues, companies can support their staff through such tumultuous times.
For more information get in touch with Ashburnham Insurance. Give us a call for free on 0800 1696137.