Guidance for Line Managers and Staff

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 This guide is intended to provide an overview of the health and safety aspects associated with home working.

The Legal Position

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) places a duty on the College as an employer to protect the health, safety and welfare of all its employees irrespective of where they may be working. This will include those working from home.

Definition of home working

Home working occurs when a member of staff is granted permission by their line manager to undertake work at their place of residence that would ordinarily be performed on the employers’ premises. 

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the only type of work proposal that would be considered by the College for home working would be computer based.

The College does not intend that home working should be a normal or full-time arrangement, but it is recognised that there may be circumstances when it would be beneficial for certain staff to occasionally work from home. Typical examples may include:

  • Where a special project requires completion and it is possible to undertake this work away from College premises.
  • Where there are predicted transport difficulties.
  • Where child care issues are a consideration.
  • Where a temporary difficulty needs to be overcome such as recuperation from an injury or illness or as part of a return to work programme. However, it should not be used as a substitute for normal working practices where medical opinion states that the person is still considered unfit for work. 

Requests to work from home

Permission is required for each occasion that an employee wishes to work from home. The request should be made to the line Manager.

Agreement to work from home should be dependent upon certain conditions being met. These may vary according to the seniority of the staff concerned and are at the discretion of the line manager or Head of Department. Specifically:

  • Risk assessments must be carried out and any risk control measures implemented. This need not be onerous (see below).
  • Working from home is appropriate for the person making the request.
  • Prior permission must be obtained from the line manager.
  • Discharging duties in accordance with the person’s job description should not suffer as a result of home working e.g. it may not be appropriate for laboratory based support staff to work from home unless a capable deputy exists.
  • The working hours must be agreed with the line manager.
  • Targets and deadlines must be set and agreed with the line manager.
  • The home worker must be contactable during the nominated work hours.
  • The home worker must be prepared to return to the normal place of work within College if requested by the line manager.
  • Prior approval from the line manager is required before any expenses are incurred as a result of working at home e.g. for office consumables.
  • Any accidents or work related ill health that may directly be associated with the work tasks must be reported to College using the established incident reporting system (see below).

Any dispute over the final decision on whether home working is agreed must be addressed by the Head of Department.

Insurance

Imperial College insurance policy currently covers College equipment temporarily loaned to College staff and located off-site. However, this is subject to whatever the excess limit on the current policy stands at – and this is typically significantly higher than the value of any computer equipment is likely to be. Therefore, in reality, any College equipment damaged or stolen from within the home is likely to be a write-off with no financial recompense from the College insurers. It may be possible to claim for loss or damages on the home owner’s own contents insurance policy (assuming the home owner has such a policy) but any such claim would be a matter for the home worker to discuss with their own insurer.

College staff working from home on College business would normally be covered by the College Employers Liability Insurance in relation to any personal injury sustained as a direct result of their work. However, in the event of a claim, the insurers would expect to see evidence that home working had been suitably requested, sanctioned and assessed in accordance with these guidelines.

Security

Home workers are advised not to release their home address and telephone details to anyone outside the College.

Staff working from home should ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure the security of College equipment e.g. keep doors and windows locked when equipment may be temporarily unattended; keep high value portable items out of direct view of the public etc. This is particularly important given the situation with regard to insurance as described above.

Risk assessment

As with all work activities, a risk assessment should ordinarily be carried out prior to commencing work. When working from home, and on the basis that work activities shall be restricted to clerical work such as reading, writing or working at a computer, then the risks associated with the work should be very low and limited to ergonomic issues, electrical hazards or manual handling. With appropriate support from the department’s local safety staff, self-assessment should not prove difficult. It is not usually practicable, nor necessary for the person’s home to be visited.

a)    Provision of equipment

The College is only responsible for equipment supplied by the College for the purposes of home working.

b)    Ergonomic issues

Further guidance on computer health and safety is available from the Occupational Health website along with a workstation self-assessment checklist.

c)    Electrical safety

Where the College provides any electrical equipment for use in the home it is the responsibility of the line manager to ensure the equipment is safe and appropriate for the task for which it is provided.

College equipment must be subject to annual portable appliance testing (PAT). It will be necessary to ensure that the electrical equipment is physically present on College premises for this testing to take place at whatever date it happens to be due.

In between formal portable appliance testing, home workers must periodically check for obvious faults that could cause harm e.g. frayed wiring, damaged casing, damaged plugs etc. These are observational checks and require no specific electrical expertise. Any concerns must be reported to the person’s line manager and if necessary, the equipment must be returned to College for further investigation and repair.

Electrical sockets and other parts of the home workers domestic supply are not the responsibility of the College.

d)    Other work equipment

It is difficult to envisage what equipment other than computers or printers is likely to be used for home working. If anything out of the ordinary is envisaged, then its use must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

e)    Manual Handling

Steps should be taken to eliminate the need for hazardous manual handling activities at home wherever possible. It is difficult to envisage such scenarios arising in relation to homeworking. However, if it is envisaged, then a manual handling assessment must be undertaken.

f)     Hazardous Substances

The use of chemicals other than those for use in computer-based work (printer inks, correction fluid etc.) would not be approved by the College unless there were exceptional circumstances. 

First Aid

The low risk nature of office type work dictates that no special provisions in terms of first aid equipment are likely to be necessary.

Accidents and work related ill health

Any accidents directly related to the work tasks are unlikely due to the low risk nature of the work, particularly if electrical equipment is maintained in good working order. Arguably, repetitive strain type injuries related to poor workstation ergonomics that develop over a period of time are more likely to occur. If such conditions become apparent, the matter should be raised with the line manager without delay. Any incidents or cases of work related ill health must be reported to the College system using the online incident reporting facility Salus. It should be possible to access Salus and submit a report from the person’s home location. Alternatively, the home worker can report once they have returned to work or a colleague at College could report on their behalf.


First issued: April 2015