According to research by the Office for National Statistics, 13.9% of UK workers do their jobs remotely: that’s 4.2 million people. The remote working population has grown by 1.3 million since 2008 and is at its highest level since records began in 1998.
Remote working certainly has its advantages, both for employers and employees. However, for employers there are considerations to be made concerning health and safety, data protection and physical risks – and insurance.
Health & Safety Risks
Whether your remote staff work at a desk using display screen equipment (DSE), or are employed in manual processes such as packing, you need to consider how their workstations are set up. Working environments need to be safe and DSE workstations are required to meet The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 so as to prevent injuries and discomfort.
Under these regulations, if you have provided the workstation, then you are required to ensure it meets minimum requirements and to assess and reduce risks. Otherwise you are still required to provide suitable advice on the safe use of any work equipment, as well as on safe working practice.
For insurance purposes, you will need to be clear on who is responsible for conducting risk assessments, and take good care in how these are recorded. A lack of evidence could prove a real issue if you need to make an insurance claim should a worker sustain an injury during the course of their duties.
Staff training in health and safety is crucial, as are clear guidelines for working practices and regular site visits. Documenting all of this will back up any claim you may need to make.
You’ll need to think about how any paper copies of documents are stored and how any electronic equipment used to process and store data is secured. A set of rules stating, for example, that devices such as laptops and tablets should be kept in a safe overnight or whilst not in use, is a good idea.
Home security measures should be checked for effectiveness and, if necessary enhanced. Additional steps may also need to be taken to protect physical work related items against fire and flood, such as keeping sensitive documentation or data-storing devices in a fire-proof, insurance graded safe and raising items off the ground.
You should always consider that a loss of data through malicious attack, electronic or physical security breach or theft can be deemed a breach of the Data Protection Act.
It can prove challenging to ensure the security of data when you have remote workers. Cloud based IT networks will need to be carefully set up to ensure the highest possible level of security, with careful monitoring of network access that takes privacy laws into consideration.
A robust management plan is essential and IT departments should think about what capabilities should be centrally controlled, and which can be handed over to the user. Security settings, encryption, email account setup, device locking and software configuration are all areas where security can fall down if not closely managed and evidence of taking all of this seriously will be vital if a claim needs to be made.
Taking an Active Role
Here at Robert Gerrard we take an active role in helping our clients identify potential risks that may arise in their particular industry sector or working environments. Our aim is to make sure you take adequate steps to mitigate risks so that if an issue does arise and you need to make a claim, there will be sufficient evidence to show you have done what you can to avoid such a situation.
If you employ remote workers and are unsure about the type and level of insurance cover you need, or would like to discuss any particular concerns, please get in touch: we’re here to help.