Employers Beware: COVID-19 and Remote Working Obligations
21 October 2020
The Safety Health and Welfare at Work legislation boils down to the fact that Employers are obliged to provide a safe place to work.
There are significant sanctions for employers who breach the legislation including fines up to €3 million and imprisonment for up to 2 years for a serious breach. In 2019 in HSA v Walker the defendant was prosecuted for a breach of s11(1)(c)(ii) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and sentenced to 6 months with only 2 month suspended.
In these COVID 19 times a workplace can mean working from home for many employees. Employers have a duty therefore to check that their employees have the appropriate facilities and equipment to work safely. The big difference now is that people working from home are doing so for their full working day or at least a large part of their working hours. Appropriate desk, chair and work station ergonomics need to be considered. How do you keep in touch with your staff to check on their well-being? Is there inappropriate online activity? How is everyone’s mental health holding up? These are just a few of the considerations that you need to consider and find ways of dealing with issues that were previously dealt with in the office environment.
“Having a designated COVID-19 Compliance Officer within the workplace
is looking like becoming the new norm.”
Having a designated COVID-19 Compliance Officer within the workplace is looking like becoming the new norm. This person or persons will be tasked with ensuring businesses meet any instructions or rules issued by the Government in order to allow them to continue trading. Online training, health and safety awareness and carrying out up to date risk assessments can be implemented easily and at low cost. A simple example is asking your employees to send a photo of their workstation. This can then be reviewed by an appropriate qualified person to assess its suitability. Creating appropriate checklists and procedures can help employers and employees assess what needs to be done in everyone’s best interests.