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Working From Home! Employer Obligations?

Just because the office is closed and people are working remotely, doesn’t mean that staff wellbeing and safety is put on hold. In fact, it is more important than ever. The truth of the matter is responsibilities for employers have changed, as echoed in a recent publication by Worksafe Victoria.   Employees have faced a huge change in their workday and for many, having to fit out a home office and lose the face to face contact and interactions of a working environment is something they never expected to experience.

Many employers have recognised this and taken steps to ensure their workplace is suitable, perform regular check-ins and structured workdays to provide more security outside the office environment. However, this has highlighted a more serious issue where employers may not be aware of the personal impact on employees now confined to the home office.

There are factors that do escalate and magnify during these times of uncertainty, which could be hardships, addictions or underlying mental health issues. The WSG team and many other organisations have unfortunately seen these factors at times manifest themselves into severe outcomes, including family and domestic violence. At times like these, it is crucial to understand your responsibilities as an employer.

In Australia, the current responsibilities of employers regarding the wellbeing and safety of the employees during the working day are vastly different to the expectations of employers a mere decade ago. Today, the employers are responsible for both the safety and wellbeing of their employees, no matter where they are located. With the current world pandemic, we have seen widespread and drastic changes to what was considered the ‘typical working day’.

An unexpected consequence of staff working from home

One of the most sobering and evident consequences of the global pandemic has been an increase in family domestic violence. With such unprecedented circumstances, the true effect on individual’s mental health and anxiety is simply unpredictable, making it incredibly difficult for employers to analyse the workplace environment that staff are now subjected to. However, this does not change their responsibilities in the eyes of the law.

WorkSafe Victoria has recently released additional information to assist employers in responding to and handling family domestic violence while employees are working from home, which can be accessed here.

Someone working from home on a computer holding a phone with a WSG 1 minute welfare timer text message alert and a notification from the WSG app to check-in

This topic has become increasingly prevalent in the news of late, with the New South Wales Court of Appeal upholding a decision that a mother’s death at the hands of domestic violence whilst working from home for their family business, is considered a workplace death. As a result, her family are now entitled to worker’s compensation. This story is a horrible snippet into the lives of so many women and men across Australia who suffer at the hands of domestic violence, whilst indicating the court’s perspective on the role of the workplace in this instance. To view the full story, which includes a section on ‘What employers should be doing’, click here

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Doing what you can to protect your staff

Whilst there is so much unrest in the world, whether that be a result of the global pandemic or other stressors, there has also been the beginning of a new generation of corporate advocates and industry leaders supporting and fighting to improve these issues for their staff. In their positions, these individuals can set the standard for others to follow. Craig Drummond, CEO of Medibank, recently released this great piece on Domestic Violence and corporate conscience, which you can see here.

Changes to work practices and cultures in the current environment don’t need to be huge but they do need to matter. Management and employees require and deserve safe working environments. Whilst the hours that businesses need to provide this safe environment have changed as work and home environments have now merged, having strong solutions and tools in place to manage these situations can drastically change the lives of your employees.

We understand that these additional responsibilities and pressures can cause a lot of anxiety for employers as well, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. The battle to ensure workplace safety, irrespective of the location, is a battle that should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Whilst it is a legal requirement, this is also a fantastic opportunity to make real change in the lives of your employees. What you do now will affect you in the future. It’s up to you to make the best choices for you, your company and most importantly – your staff.

To know what your obligations are, and more importantly, what you can do to keep your staff safe whist they are working from home, can be difficult information to come by amidst a situation that seems to change almost daily.

WorkSafe Guardian has been supporting businesses to protect the safety and wellbeing of their employees for over 5 years. With more than 20 years of experience in the security industry, we have the capability and products to ensure your employees have a functional tool for any circumstance they may find themselves in.

If, in our small way we could help make it safer for your employees as they work from home and contribute to your business as productively as possible, please reach out for a chat or look through our website to see what we can do to assist your organisation.

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