Home-based employees can spell big gains in terms of productivity, but it can see you enter tricky terrain when it comes to legality. Although inviting your staff to work from home may see you gain kudos as a boss, it also increases your exposure to workers’ compensation claims.
When you allow an employee to work from home, you surrender control of their environment and working habits, so it’s essential to take the time to prepare in order to avoid landing in hot water. Fear of legal action shouldn’t deter you from encouraging flexible work practices, but it does mean that you should take measures to protect yourself should a crisis strike. Here’s our no-fail checklist to managing home-based employees.
Understand your obligations
It’s critical to remember that workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state and are affected by how much you pay your staff. Contacting a WorkCover agency in your area or arranging one-on-one time with a professional advisor will take the guesswork out of this process and foster all-important peace of mind.
Discuss your employees’ work environments upfront
It might seem invasive, but asking your employees to speak candidly about their work environment will clear up any questions and prevent possible claims down the track. It’s important that this conversation is focused on details that could impede work safety and that you make the effort to identify factors that might pose potential risk. If you’re still concerned, ask your employee if they consent to a safety audit of their home office – it’s vital that you don’t let potential awkwardness get in the way of fulfilling your duty of care.
Include a working from home clause in your employees’ contract
If you expect your staff to regularly work from home, it’s a smart move to draft this into their offer of employment. Make sure you stipulate their obligation to work in a safe manner, report injuries as soon as they occur and take steps to eradicate their work environment from risk. By spelling these terms out in writing, you level the playing field should the risk of litigation arise.
Schedule regular occupational health and safety training
You might not be able to control an employee’s at-home work practices, but you can make every effort to educate them on how to be more careful when conducting their day-to-day tasks. Scheduling a regular safety training program will enforce awareness of workplace safety while coaching your employees to be more vigilant whether they’re working at home or away.
Workers’ compensation can be fraught with grey areas, but it’s less challenging if business owners educate themselves and take the time to prepare. If you factor in your obligations and prioritise your duty of care towards your employees, you’ll be well-equipped to ward off any crises before they get out of hand.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor with over six years’ experience in the media and finance industries. She has held senior editorial positions at various business and technology publications and specialises in online strategy, innovation, creativity and management best practices.