Hello, my name is Robin and I own a medium sized business which is based in a suburb of Perth, Australia. Many business owners do not understand the importance of commercial law on their operations. I know that I certainly didn't when I set out. At first, this wasn't an issue but as my business grew, I realised that if I didn't teach myself about the legal rules in place and seek expert help, I would find myself in serious trouble. I got in touch with a great law firm who helped me to understand exactly what I needed to know. I decided to start this blog to help other business owners.
A growing number of businesses allow their workers to work from home for some or all of their working time. However many businesses are not clear about what their obligations are to provide workers compensation for these at home workers. Here are some broad guidelines.
Is the worker a direct employee or a contractor?
If you employ someone as a direct employee you have an obligation to provide a safe working environment. For workers who work at home you can ask them to show that they have a safe work environment set up, including visiting their home or getting some photos of their home workplace. You can also give them some training on sensible measures you can take at home t ensure that you are working safely such as alarms that help you to remind you to get up and stretch regularly.
While many workplaces assume that the same protections do not apply to contractors, if your contractor works primarily for a single employer then that employers does take on some employers responsibilities. It is sensible in this case to ask the contractor to read through your internal policy on safe working conditions and confirm that they comply with it.
Are you managing mental stresses as well as physical stresses?
When you have workers working at home it can be harder to observe their demeanour and see if they are coping with the mental and emotional tensions or work. It is also easier for workplace bullies to hide the effect of their bullying with working at home workers. It is also important to make sure that people are working reasonable hours and are not overworking.
Some ways to manage this include scheduling regular catchups with your employees, either in person, by phone and/or video conferences and using electronic tools to monitor the hours that they are spending at work. Some programs will even lock out a user from their computer if they have been working at a computer for too many hours.
If you have a large workforce who works from home and you are looking to set up structures and legal frameworks that help to manage your workers compensation risk it can be a good idea to meet with a workers compensation lawyer. They can help you to review your existing policies and risk management to identify any areas that need to be improved to ensuring the workers compensation risks are being covered.