You have a duty of care to all employees who work for you – regardless of where that work is undertaken.
If any of your employees work from home on a regular basis, you have an obligation to make sure their home office environment is safe.
In other words, you will need to carry out a full health and safety check and risk assessment of any home office before you allow employees to work there.
Having employees work from home can have great benefits for both you and your employees. The employee can fulfil their family obligations by not having to worry about long, time-consuming commutes or childcare, and it gives you an avenue to keep valuable staff happy and retain their services by being flexible.
If the business permits an employee to work from home, it has the same general duty to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to health as it would if the employee was working at the usual premises.
Your 7 OHS obligations for employees who work from home:
- To ensure there is a safe working environment
- Providing and maintaining equipment and systems of work that are safe and without risk to health (e.g. appropriate office furniture, lighting, ventilation, etc)
- To identify hazards, assess the hazards and provide appropriate control within the workplace (e.g. home workplaces often include toys on the floor, protruding objects, dogs and children etc)
- To establish communication and appropriate employee conditions (e.g. agreed hours of work)
- To provide the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure health and safety at work (e.g. employees working excessive hours without breaks, fatigue, lapses in safe procedures)
- To ensure the safe use, handling, storage and transportation of equipment and substances (e.g. storage of chemicals in the house used for printing, cleaning, etc. posing risk to children if not appropriately secured, sharp objects used by tradespeople)
- To take reasonable care for the health and safety of people who attend the home work environment of the employee (e.g. children, neighbours and other visitors)
While it is difficult for you to have control over an off-site workplace like this, your duty as an employer is to take measures to create the safest workplace as is reasonably possible.
Why should you create flexible working arrangements for your employees?
Being a flexible employer involves creating a balance between building your business and supporting your employees. If an employee makes a request for a flexible working arrangement, you need to address the request seriously and take all the relevant factors in to consideration when making a decision.
You can always trial the flexible working arrangement for a certain period of time to determine whether it is a feasible option, and fine tune any aspects of the arrangement to make it a successful adjustment for both you and your employee.
Creating a balance between the successful operation of your business and supporting your employees will contribute to the positive growth of your business, through:
- creating happier and healthier employees who are less prone to stress;
- reducing absenteeism, lateness and turnover;
- increasing employee motivation and commitment;
- increasing the likelihood of employees returning from parental leave; and
- saving you money on recruitment and re-training.