Multiple pieces of legislation set out the key health and safety obligations that employers must abide by. The key responsibility is the duty of care that an employer owes to their workers, which requires that they take reasonable steps to ensure their safety. For more information, read Health and safety.
This key legislation includes:
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 sets out employers’ key health and safety duty: employers must take all reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all staff while they’re at work. This includes those who work remotely. Key aspects of this duty involve providing a safe workplace and safe equipment, even when these are at an employee’s home.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require that employers carry out risk assessments to identify any hazards posed by an employee’s work and their work environment. This includes the work done by home workers. Employers must also take steps to remove the risks that they identify. Where this is not 'reasonably practicable' (ie taking measures to remove the risks would be disproportionate to the seriousness or likelihood of the hazard identified), the risks should be minimised.
Risk assessments should include checking whether the ventilation, temperature, lighting, floor, space, chair, desk, workstation and computer in an employee’s home working set up are suitable for the tasks being performed. A record must usually also be kept of the findings of the risk assessment and the risks should be regularly reviewed (eg by conducting new risk assessments).
Staff are also responsible for maintaining a safe environment and they must inform their employer if any measures that have been taken to reduce risks turn out to be ineffective.
For more information, read Risk assessments at work.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
Employers have specific responsibilities related to employees’ Display Screen Equipment (DSE) use (eg use of laptops, smartphones, and other screens). These are set out in the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. Employers must conduct workstation assessments for 'DSE users' (ie those who regularly use DSE as part of their daily work for continuous periods of one hour or more) to identify risks related to DSE use (eg risks to employees’ eyesight). Employers must take measures to reduce any identified risks, for example, making sure staff take breaks from DSE work to do something different or providing training and information.
For more information, read Health and safety when working with display screen equipment (DSE).
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) impose a duty on employers to report and keep records of certain workplace accidents. RIDDOR requires reporting and record keeping for:
certain serious workplace accidents (eg those that result in death or serious injury)
certain occupational diseases
specified dangerous occurrences (there are many of these including, for example, fires or structural collapses)
Reports must be made by a ‘Responsible Person’ who can be the employer, a self-employed person, or another person who is in control of work premises (with some variation depending on which type of work-related incident has occurred). Qualifying incidents which occur at an employee’s home while they are working from home must be reported as they would be if they occurred in the workplace.
For more information, read the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) guidance.
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981
The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 require employers to make provisions for first aid by making sure adequate first aid equipment is available to employees and by making sure competent, trained people are able to administer it when needed. Employers must also inform staff of the arrangements they’ve made in connection with first-aid.
These obligations still apply when an employee is working from home. For example, depending on the nature of an employee’s work, it may be appropriate for an employer to make sure that they have access to a basic first aid kit and first aid training, or access to a phone to call an ambulance.
For more information, read First aid obligations for employees working from home.