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Working at Home Accidents – Who is Liable?

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In many countries, the number of people working from home has doubled since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. While many businesses take reasonable care and responsibility for their employees’ safety in the workplace, many are asking what the regulations are for remote workers. 

In this article, we will be discussing accidents when working at home and who is liable.

Your Employer’s Duty of Care

Whether you’re working in the office or from home, your employer is required to protect your health, safety and welfare while you are working for them. 

Just like in-house employees, remote workers expect and are owed the same duty of care from their employers. This duty of care covers everything from the physical working environment of the individual and extends to their mental health needs.

How to Create Safe Work Environments at Home

Unlike offices, where the environment can be controlled and safety measures can be put in place to protect employees, everyone’s home environment differs. From the layout to the furnishing, creating a safe work environment at home means something different for everyone.

Despite this, governments are asking employers to be vigilant about protecting the health and safety of their remote workers, according to Health and Safety Law

Whether employees are working part-time, full-time or on an ad hoc basis, if they are ‘at work’ employers must ensure that all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent any accidents they may otherwise be liable for. McCarthy + Co. Solicitors state the scope of an employer’s duty of care falls under four principal headings, with an employer being obliged to provide his workforce with:

  • Competent co-workers
  • A safe place of work
  • Proper equipment which is fit for purpose
  • A safe system of work

Below are some of the most effective ways employers can support the health and safety of remote workers.

Provide Risk Assessments and Guideline Advice

Often, workplace risk assessments will highlight areas of concern within a workspace, whether that’s in-house or remote. These issues are then raised with the employer and appropriate action is taken to reduce any risk to the employee.

Despite so many people working from home, very few have a suitable working space that isn’t the dining room or kitchen table. As such, accidents can happen – the most common being back pain and injury caused by insufficient working set-ups. 

All employers have a responsibility to ensure the working environments for their employees are suitable for remote working on a long-term basis. Advice should also be provided that helps employees carry out their own basic risk assessment at home and share their findings with employers so that suitable adjustments can be made.

Display Screen Equipment

This includes the use of smartphones, tablets and desktops in the home that allow employees to do their job. All equipment used for work must be provided and properly maintained by the employer. A few steps employees can take to reduce the likelihood of injury whilst working from home include:

  • Regularly changing their working position.
  • Taking short breaks every 10-20 minutes away from the screen.
  • Breaking up long periods of screen time with 5-minute rest breaks every hour.
  • Stretching regularly to avoid stiff joints.

Identifying and Reducing Hazards

Most slips and trips in the office are caused by uneven floors, obstructions in walkways, or inappropriate flooring. Unsurprisingly, these factors also come into play around the home. So, a risk assessment will consider the hazards around your home to ensure any necessary changes are made before remote working commences.

Manual Handling Training and Precautions

If part of your job involves the manual handling of products or the packing of boxes, precautions must be taken to avoid injury. A risk assessment will take these factors into consideration and highlight any areas of concern. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide the necessary training to ensure all manual handling is carried out safely and for the avoidance of any injury.

Mental Health Support

Employers have a duty to protect the mental health and wellbeing of their remote employees. Mental health conditions are classed as disabilities when they have a long-term effect on the everyday functioning of an individual and, as such it is against the law for employers to discriminate against employees with mental health struggles. As such, employers are expected and legally required to provide mental health support for their workers.

The type of support that is provided will depend on each person and their individual needs. However, providing support such as paid-for therapy sessions, online consultations, space to talk, and even the provision of specialist equipment or adjustments to the duties of the job itself are all necessary steps to protect employee mental health.

Equipment Provision

One of the most common injuries suffered by remote workers is because of a chair that is not fit for purpose. Employers are required to provide guidance and advice about the ideal chair and screen positioning to reduce potential injuries.  

Employers must check that remote workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs effectively and that said equipment is in good working order. Employers must also provide remote workers with any personal protective equipment, as necessary.

Who is Liable if You Have an Accident?

Many remote workers are concerned about whether their employer would be liable if they had an accident while working at home. Your employer would only be responsible if you suffered an injury whilst working from home due to some negligence on their part.

As we have already stated in this article, employers are predominantly responsible for carrying out a risk assessment of your working environment and ensuring you have suitable and working equipment available to do your job well. Therefore, unless they neglected to provide suitable training or equipment to you and you had a work-related accident as a result of this, it is unlikely your employer would be liable.

However, it is always important to provide all the facts of your injury and your working environment to a solicitor so they can advise you on your case. The sooner you report your injury and make a claim, the better. Whether you win your case or not, raising the issue will provide useful for your employer and hopefully encourage them to act and improve on any areas of negligence within their company so that future work-related accidents are prevented.

Final Words

Employers have a duty of care to their employees, whether they work in-house or from home. This duty of care requires that employers do everything within their power to ensure their employees are supported, both physically and mentally, to carry out their jobs safely. 

As the number of remote workers around the world continues to increase, employers must continue taking positive action to ensure the health and safety of their employees. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.


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Addressing Mental Health in the Workforce

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Johanna G. Zelman

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. After fifteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic – which has placed unprecedented stress on Americans dealing with isolation and fear, while juggling closed schools and businesses, homeschooling children, working from home, and economic uncertainty, including ensuring basic necessities – Americans are struggling to recover. One study published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a finding that almost 41 percent of adults reported a mental health issue or increased substance use. Other studies published more recently in 2021 reflect similar results. For employers, who rely on a healthy workforce to be successful, this has direct repercussions on productivity, work quality and, in some cases, legal liability.

Despite this, mental health remains highly stigmatized, and employees are often uncomfortable speaking about their troubles at work. But there are things employers can do to encourage their employees to ask for help.

  • Talk to Your Employees. Have your managers and supervisors check in on your employees and ask them how they are doing or if they need anything. Make sure they communicate to employees that as their employer, you are there for them. Employees feel more comfortable speaking to their employers when they know that the subject of mental health is not taboo.
  • Let Employees Know that is Okay Not to be Okay. Many employees believe that they must always put on their best face while at work. This leads to the illusion that they are always happy and that their lives are perfect, discouraging others from coming forward with concerns. Tell employees that they don’t have to always be okay, and encourage them to talk about their concerns. It is okay to not be okay.
  • Make EAP Available and Accessible. Having an Employee Assistance Plan available and easily accessible is a great way to bring mental health care to your employees. Send an email to your employees identifying your EAP provider and providing instructions on how to access it. Put these instructions on your company intranet. Consider giving your employees a few free sessions per year as part of their benefits. Make sure employees understand that the use of EAP services generally will be anonymous unless they are told otherwise.
  • Publish a List of Resources. Every community has mental health and substance abuse resources available. Put together a list of these resources and provide it to your employees, either through email or by making it available on your company intranet, or both.
  • Make Sure Mental Health Care is Covered by Your Health Plan. Many health insurers still do not cover treatment for mental health care. Make sure that the health insurance plan you choose for your employees covers mental health treatment.
  • Encourage Employees to Take Time for Themselves. Rest and relaxation increase productivity. During COVID, many employees gave up their vacations because travel was not possible. Now that it is, encourage your employees to take vacation time, even if it means taking a staycation.
  • Create Opportunities for Employees to Socialize. Bring in donuts on Fridays, and encourage employees to socialize (with or without masks) in the breakroom for a few minutes. Hold a happy hour once a month. Sponsor a cookie competition during the holidays. Social events tend to make for a happier workforce, increasing employee productivity and decreasing the sense of isolation and other factors that lead to mental health issues.
  • Train Your Employees. Providing training to employees about mental health and ways to manage it will let your employees know you are open to hearing their concerns.
  • Ensure All Employees Understand How to Request an Accommodation. Federal law, most state laws, and some local laws require that an employer provide reasonable accommodations to its disabled employees. A mental health condition may qualify as a disability under these laws. A “reasonable accommodation” is any adjustment that can be made to working conditions that allows an employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job, although essential functions need not be eliminated, and the employee’s requested accommodation need not be granted so long as the accommodation provided is reasonable. Tell your employees how to make such a request, and make sure they understand that there will be no retaliation if they do need an accommodation. In some instances, a leave of absence may even be necessary. Again, make sure your employees know it is okay.

Mental illness is often labeled a “silent” disability because, in most cases, it is not apparent. It is, however, no less serious than any physical disability, and, left untreated, can be more harmful. One of the leading causes of employer losses is due to mental health conditions. Employers, therefore, benefit by ensuring that they have a workforce that is healthy, both physically and mentally. Encouraging employees to come forward and seek help for mental health concerns or illness will create loyalty and an overall happier and more satisfying work environment.

This blog originally appeared at FordHarrison on May 26, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About this Author: Johanna Zelman has represented a wide variety of employers from various industries, but Johanna has a specific strength in matters arising in the municipal employment setting and in public schools and universities.


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Mental Health at the Workplace – What You Need to

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The stigma that has once surrounded mental health issues is slowly beginning to lift. Fortunately, celebrities and online influencers continue to step out and speak up about their experiences with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health challenges.

But what of the people who are working at jobs that are not exposed to the media? What do they need to know about mental health at their workplace?

Let’s look at some important facts and statistics.

Mental Health Issues Significantly Affect Businesses

Mental health challenges and issues, as well as heightened stress, can lead to poor job performance and a drop in productivity, less engagement at work, and communication issues between employees and employers. They will inevitably impact a business’s bottom line.

As little as one night of poor sleep can significantly impact performance – and considering how mental health challenges affect sleep patterns, the downward spiral is easy to spot.

Employees Have Mental Health Rights

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employee cannot be fired or forced to stop working based on a mental health issue, and the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for any mental health condition.

Some employers provide employee assistance programs, too. These are completely confidential and provide assistance to an employee without disclosing any information to the company.

Employees are also allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with a mental health crisis.

Mental Health Issues Are More Common Than You Think

Unless it’s happening to us, we are mostly unaware of how widely spread mental health issues are. Most people still don’t talk about their own challenges with their mental health.

But the fact of the matter is that one in five Americans will experience a mental health illness every year. This means that there is most likely at least one person in every office suffering from some kind of mental health challenge, be it mild or severe.

Mental Health Issues Are Most Often Treatable

Even when they seem incredibly frightening and isolating to the person affected by them, mental health issues are often treatable. In most cases, they can be solved with regular treatment – whether that be therapy, medication, or simply a specific daily practice someone exercises.

The sooner the person suffering from a mental illness seeks treatment, the greater their chances of solving the issue successfully.

What Can You Do to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

The best way to battle mental health issues in the workplace is to advocate, speak up, and establish procedures for times of crisis. Here are some of the ways you can get involved and practices you can advocate for in your office:

  • De-stigmatization – One of the most challenging issues we face in the realm of mental health and mental health advocacy is ignorance and stigmatization. Educating coworkers, managers, and employees about mental health (their own as well as other people’s) is the first step to take.
  • A clear line of communication without repercussions – It’s vital to open a line of communication between employees and managers on the subject of mental health. An employee needs to be able to step forward and confide to their manager about their challenges and triggers. In exchange, solutions and processes need to be put in place to help them overcome these issues.
  • Personal mental health practices – We can all do a lot to take care of our own mental health. Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and spending time outdoors will significantly help our mental state. Furthermore, it’s crucial for our mental health that we find the time for friends, family, and hobbies. Even when an employer is unable to provide mental health support, the things we do for ourselves can help significantly.
  • Watching out for each other – When someone is suffering from a mental health disorder, they may not be able to see it clearly. Speaking up when you notice someone’s odd behavior or irritability and offering support can be the spark they need to help them start getting better.

Final Thoughts

Mental health in the workplace will take more spotlight as the workplace itself evolves and shifts. For the time being, it’s up to the employees to advocate for this cause. They have to fight for the processes and procedures that can protect them. Hopefully, these facts can help open up that conversation.

About the author: Sarah Kaminski is a freelance writer and social media marketer. She works with a number of small businesses to build their brands through more engaging marketing and content.


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Raising the minimum wage prevents suicides, but Republicans won’t do it

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third study in less than a year has found that raising the minimum wage would prevent suicides. The latest study, in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, adds the finding that a higher minimum wage would be an especially strong suicide prevention measure during times of high unemployment.

The researchers used states with minimum wages above the federal level to analyze the years from 1990 to 2015, writing that “We estimated a 6% reduction in suicide for every dollar increase in the minimum wage among adults aged 18–64 years with ?high school education.” Accounting for other factors lowers it to a 3.5% reduction in some cases. There’s no effect for people with a college education—a finding that both supports the result for people with a high school diploma or less and one “suggesting that minimum wage increases may reduce disparities in mental health and mortality between socioeconomic groups.”

We’re talking about 27,000 lives that could have been saved by raising the minimum wage by $1.

Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages above the federal level of $7.25 an hour. The House, controlled by Democrats, has passed a $15 minimum wage bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republicans have blocked even a vote.

This article was originally published at Daily Kos on January 10, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributor at Daily Kos editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.

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Mental Health and the Workplace: How Can We Change the Stigma?

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AuthorProfile (1)I suffer from depression and anxiety.

In our constantly-moving world, this is not uncommon.

However, it is rarely acceptable to discuss.

When I was first diagnosed with depression, I was a young working 20 year old in college. The depressive episode had hit me pretty hard and – being in a retail business where customer service was of the utmost importance – it was increasingly difficult to appear “happy” at my job.

Smiling was difficult, staying motivated was difficult, and interacting with customers was almost impossible. I was also commonly late to work, as getting ready and motivated was an increasingly unobtainable outcome.

After a few weeks of a noticeably sullen mood shift, my manager called me into her office. Instead of doing the right thing and asking me if I needed a vacation or a moment away from customers, she told me to “smile” and just keep working.

“My husband suffered from mild depression once,” she informed me, “so I know how difficult depression can be. Still, you need to smile at customers. I never see you smile anymore. If you don’t improve we will have to re-evaluate your performance here.”

Later, this same manager threatened to fire me when my other chronic health issues caused me to be hospitalized for a couple of days. If I had been aware of the laws surrounding the Americans with Disability Act, there’s no doubt I would have filed a complaint. Sadly, I was too young to be aware of them, and I ended up quitting a month later to focus on my schooling.

I did eventually get pills to help with my depression, but they were only a temporary fix. To this day I don’t medicate for the illness, as it is situational. It does rear its ugly head from time to time, but I have decided to treat it without mentally altering medications. It is a condition I am aware of and can prepare for, but I still struggle bringing it up at work.

Stigma around mental health seems to be a constant presence in my life. From people commonly describing the weather as “bi-polar,” to news stories focused around another mass shooting and the role that mental health plays in gun rights; I can never seem to escape the reminder that our society finds mental illness unacceptable.

These stigmas – plus the way I was treated at my job when I was 20 – has caused me to bottle up my condition in the workplace. “If they don’t see it and if I don’t mention it; then my job will be secure,” I think to myself. However, bottling up my condition can lead to more anxiety and distrust with my employer. I shouldn’t feel like I need to hide something that can affect my life so heavily.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about one in five Americans suffer from mental illnesses every year. The most common ailment to affect the brain is anxiety (about 18.1% of Americans suffer from it), closely followed by depression and other mood disorders. Considering mental illness is so prominent in our society, one would assume that our level of acceptance and understanding was much higher than the reality. Sadly, it wasn’t until recently (with the addition of the Affordable Care Act) that mental illness treatment was even seen as a necessity.

According to Bradley University’s Counseling Program, mental illness can have serious physical effects on the body as well. Depression alone can increase a person’s chances of contracting heart disease or cancer by over 50%, and over-exposure to chronic stress is directly correlated to increased risks of heart attacks.

What does this mean for mental health in the workplace?

We, the employees and those in management, need to break the stigma and talk about our mental state comfortably with our superiors. Our superiors, in turn, should be able to understand the best ways to mitigate stress and anxiety, and not discriminate against employees that struggle with mental health conditions. As Wake Forest University explains, stigma can originate inside ourselves, and the first step to conquering the problem is talking openly about our condition with others.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), mental health issues can qualify as “psychiatric disabilities” that may hamper “one or more major life activity.” NAMI has also provided a helpful handout for any employees that struggle with mental illness and want to know their rights. Legally, most mental illness sufferers fall under the protection of the ADA.

Learn your rights, and do your part to end the stigmas surrounding mental illness. Hopefully over time, we can reverse discriminatory practices in the workplace and bring about a more mentally-healthy future.

Katie McBeth is a freelance writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. When she’s not writing about millennials or small businesses, she spends her free time training her dog Toby to herd her three annoying (but adorable) cats around her house. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.


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Getting Back at the Man

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Image: Bob RosnerThis blog will undoubtedly make many of you ask one question, how good is my mental health benefit with my HMO?

I realized I was really happy today, because the Super Bowl will feature Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Or to be more factually correct, because it will not feature New York and Chicago.

But it didn’t stop there. I realized that in terms of all sports, I now mostly cheer for the smallest media market to triumph.

Not the underdog. Now that would be too American. I root for the smallest two cities, whether they’re favored or not.

San Francisco and Texas, yippee!

Boston & Los Angeles, well because I reside in Seattle, the NBA is dead to me. So I sat that particular series out.

Remember, I began this blog by questioning my own mental health.

But I wonder if there are at least a few other people out there who revel in the natural order of all things sporting gets messed with. In a world where the same people who argued that continuing unemployment insurance was going to add to the deficit, suddenly had no problems cutting taxes for billionaires.

In that world it’s odd how much fun it can be when the billionaires get stuck with a team in the big game that’s named after the Indian Packing Company, which provided the field where they practiced early in the last century.

I wasn’t always this cynical. There was a time when I didn’t live to see a billionaire stumble. But after watching Lehman Brothers, WAMU and AIG executives walk away with no accountability for their crimes, and able to keep all their ill gotten gains, well my cynicism level has dramatically increased.

Is it only me? Or do you find yourself enjoying another Chapter 11 filing by Donald Trump just a little too much. Or when a really rich person spends $120 million to run for office and gets beaten by a really old guy who used to date Linda Ronstadt.

Really I’m not trying to be too cynical here. But to paraphrase Lily Tomlin, it seems like these days no matter how cynical you are, it just never seems like enough.

And for all those disappointed fans in Chicago and New York, remember the great observation by Jerry Seinfield. They may seem like your team, but mostly you’re cheering for laundry. Especially with the lockout looming, most players really don’t feel as strongly as you do about the team you just painted your face for.

Will I be watching the Super Bowl? You bet, but mostly for the ads.  

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.


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