The employer is responsible for the protection of the occupational health and safety of staff who work from home as well as office-based workers.
Employers are required to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all the work activities carried out by their workers under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. In the case of homeworkers, it is good practice for the homeworkers themselves to carry out a self-assessment of the risks from work activities carried out in the home.
All assessments need to identify the hazards that are present, to assess the extent of the risks and make decisions on how to manage such risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, to comply with health and safety law. Risk assessments relating to new or expectant mothers must also take account of risks to the child.
Employers have general duties regarding health and safety of employees and others, which apply whether employees are working in a conventional office or remotely, as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’ to do so. See our Health and Safety section for more information on particular duties.
The employer’s duty to take reasonable steps in relation to health and safety also extends to mental health. This can be particularly important in the case of employees who are working from home, because of the risks of isolation, or failure to take proper breaks. A new study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Working anytime anywhere, the effects on the world of work, has found that working remotely can lead to insomnia and raised levels of stress.
Employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do or don’t do, and to report all employment-related hazards. For homeworkers, the other people who may be affected are likely to include other family members, neighbours, visitors and so on.
Employees must cooperate with employers on health and safety, which includes using work items and equipment correctly.
The employer should inform the homeworker of the company's policy on occupational health and safety. The homeworker then has a responsibility to apply these safety policies correctly.