What is safeguarding?
Generally speaking, safeguarding in the workplace refers to the duty of care that you have as an employer to prevent or respond to harm posed to your employees. This could involve intervening on behalf of a vulnerable adult, providing wellbeing advice and guidance, and supporting those whose needs are being neglected to an extent that it has an impact on their physical or mental wellbeing.
A vulnerable adult is defined as someone over the age of 18 who may be unable to care for themselves or protect themselves against harm or exploitation. They could be somebody with a physical or mental disability, an illness, or an inability to report abuse. An individual may be considered vulnerable at one point in time and not at another.
Safeguarding should be the responsibility of everyone. However, as an employer, it is up to you to ensure that you have the right policies and procedures in place to ensure that safeguarding happens.
How can an employer meet their safeguarding responsibilities?
As an employer, you have a duty of care towards all of your employees, and safeguarding contributes to upholding this. You need to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of all of your employees is your top priority, including by ensuring that they have access to medical care when necessary and a safe place of work.
If you discover that there is a safeguarding concern in your workplace, you need to take great care to establish the views and wishes of the individual concerned and to ensure that any evidence is collected and saved, including written records of anything that has been said and any actions that have been taken.
A safeguarding concern could cover many things, including (but not limited to) mental, physical, or sexual abuse, financial or material abuse, neglect, or discriminatory or organisational abuse.
An employer should have policies in place regarding the reporting of any incidents or risks. It is important to make sure that all employees know what these are and follow them accordingly. If you are required to disclose information about an issue, for example to the police or a healthcare professional, you need to let the individual concerned know that this is the case.
Safeguarding can involve supporting an individual’s emotional or physical needs and making sure that they have access to everything that they need in order to meet these needs. You may be required to carry out additional risk assessments that take into account specific risks relevant to the individual or to take a care plan into consideration.
An employer should have policies in place regarding how employees should report safeguarding incidents and concerns, whether on behalf of themselves or someone else. These policies should set out who these reports should be made to. It should also be clear how the reports should be handled and responded to, so that everything is dealt with carefully and properly at all times. Safeguarding policies can also set out the employer’s and their employees’ relevant responsibilities, which safeguarding training is provided, and informational details about safeguarding.
Having a safeguarding policy in place shows all employees that you take safeguarding seriously and that any issues will be taken seriously.
It is important to remember that, where safeguarding is concerned, each situation can be quite different. You need to take each case as it comes and handle it with care, empathy, and sensitivity. Having good policies in place and ensuring that these are followed will help everyone in your business to know what they should do and what their rights and responsibilities are.
Safeguarding is a socially and legally important area of employment compliance. If you’re an employer, you can enhance your safeguarding practices by using Rocket Lawyer’s Safeguarding policy document and by offering employees specialised safeguarding training. If you have questions about your business’ compliance, you can Ask a lawyer.