Employers should not be responsible for home office safety
It makes no difference whether it’s an office or a home office – the employer’s responsibility for the safety of the working environment is the same today. In order for employers to allow their employees to work from home with a peace of mind, the regulation should be made more flexible.
It’s no secret that people increasingly prefer more flexible work arrangements. In order to make the best possible and most effective use of their time, they increasingly wish to work at home, on a train, in a library or elsewhere. Although today’s employers are forthcoming and allowing their employees to work remotely, there is still an unreasonable risk for the employers.
The law does not differentiate today between office work and remote work
Even if an employee works remotely, such as on public transport or in nature, the employer is still required to ensure that working there is safe. For example, an employer has to conduct a risk assessment at the remote workplace and assess the hazards and risks to the employee’s health there. The employer must also design and furnish the workplace, ensure that the lighting is adequate, organise first aid measures and also check that the remote employee complies with safety instructions.
In most cases, the conditions of a remote workplace are beyond the employer’s inspection and influence
It is neither reasonable nor, in most cases, possible for the employer to meet all the requirements currently in force in the case of remote working. The Chamber of Commerce considers workplace safety very important, but it should be approached sensibly. It should be borne in mind that, in the case of distance work, the conditions of employment can be affected primarily by the employee himself and not by the employer. It is difficult for an employer, if not impossible, to check whether an employee follows the instructions given by the employer there, uses the tools safely, etc. It is also difficult, for example, to determine whether an accident was an occupational accident or not – whether the employee stumbled upon performing a work task or while doing some household chore. The result is that the employer has obligations that it cannot substantively meet, and responsibilities that it has no control over.
The Chamber proposed to make the law more reasonable to employers
The Chamber sent the Ministry of Social Affairs a proposal to change the law so that the employer would only be responsible for what it could actually influence. In the case of remote work, the employer should provide the employee with the necessary tools and instructions on how to design his or her workplace and do his or her work in such a way that it does not harm the employee’s health. From there on, it should be the employee’s own duty and responsibility. The employee would design their own workplace and work according to the employer’s instructions, set their screen at the right height, avoid a noisy work environment, etc.
Of course, an employer has no obligation to allow an employee to work remotely, but given the different circumstances, there may be a real need for that. For example, the need to work away from the office has also been significantly affected by the COVID-19 situation. In order for employers to be more willing to offer flexible working conditions to their employees, regulation should also be more flexible.