Employers' liability when working from home

Who is responsible for the health and safety of home workers?

As an employer, you are legally responsible for the health and safety of all employees. This includes those working from home.

Employers should carry out risk assessments of employees' home workspaces. The assessment should be 'suitable and sufficient', and employers should ensure any changes required are carried out.

If it is not reasonably practical for an employer to carry out a full assessment, the employee should be provided with information on how to work safely.

Employees also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety at work. They must keep their employer informed of any health and safety risks, and any changes that are needed.

What should be covered by the risk assessment?

This will depend on the nature of the work and specific circumstances of the employee.

Consider including checks of:

  • the workstation
  • lighting
  • flooring
  • desk
  • chair
  • computer
  • data security
  • electrical installations

If a worker is desk bound, you should also ensure they are taking adequate breaks and that measures are in place to protect their mental health.

Home-working health and safety should be reviewed regularly. If you’re in any doubt about what to cover in a risk assessment, seek professional advice.

Does employers’ liability insurance cover home working?

Employers’ liability insurance will usually provide some cover for employees working from home, but this will depend on the exact terms of:

  • the policy
  • activities undertaken
  • specific circumstances of a claim

Some policies will not cover all employees. They may also cover certain activities only, such as ‘clerical duties’.

It’s important to be aware that not doing certain things, such as carrying out a risk assessment, could invalidate the insurance policy.

What is covered?

This can be a grey area, as it may be difficult to work out what injuries or illness were sustained as part of the employee’s work’.

Employers may also not be liable for some physical aspects of the worker’s home, such as fire safety and evacuation, structural safety and building design, adequate ventilation, etc.

Who is covered?

You will need to check your policy to find out. In a normal situation all employees are covered, but this may not be the case with home working.

Although you are not legally obliged to have employers’ liability insurance for close family members and overseas employees, you should still carry out steps to ensure their health and safety while they are working for you.

Can an employee claim and will I be covered?

Before you agree to any home working situation, you should contact your insurance provider to find out who and what is covered and what actions you need to take to comply with the terms of your policy. If you haven’t done that yet, do so as soon as possible.