A growing number of employees are able to work from their homes. Many employers are willing to facilitate flexible working for their employees and create the conditions for a better work-life balance. But do employees have a right to work from home, and are there any laws governing work from home?
Working from home is possible across a growing number of industries and is no longer just reserved for freelancers or the self-employed. But what if an accident happens in your home office? As an employee, you may know your rights in the workplace, and can be assured that health and safety in the workplace are taken care of by your employer. However, there seems to be uncertainty when working from home. Find out what you need to know about working from home and insurance in general, and how you should behave in your own four walls in case of an accident during working hours.
What type of home office accident insurance is there?
First of all, a distinction must be made as to what types of insurances are available and who can be covered by them.
If you’re worried about protecting items you use as part of your working from home set-up, you may be in luck depending on your current home contents insurance. Many insurers will insure items within your household against loss, theft, or even accidental damage. Some policies contain clauses for working from home which will pay for damage caused to home office equipment. Check the T&Cs of your existing policies to see if the contents of your office are already covered. This will prevent you from having to take out extra insurance, but don’t automatically assume these items are included in your homeowner’s insurance.
General liability insurance and property insurance are two other forms of insurance you should already have in place that could help set you up to be fully insured in your home office. Your employer will likely also have these forms of insurance. They protect you and your employer against claims related to bodily injury and property damage. However, you can simplify matters by opting to get an insurance tailor made for home worker’s, which combines public liability, professional indemnity, and business contents insurance in one insurance policy.
If you are a freelancer, you won’t be covered by an employer’s insurance in most cases. The list of insurance policies which you can choose to get as a freelancer in the UK is long, and really depends on the industry you’re in. In terms of being covered if you have an accident whilst working, public liability insurance is important if you are meeting or working for a client on your premises and an accident occurs. Having your own public liability insurance is therefore of great importance to cover any accidents that may happen in your office at home.
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What exactly is insured as part of a home worker’s insurance?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, unfortunately. As mentioned above, which policies and insurances you opt for as a freelancer, for example, depends on your industry. This is also true of being employed but working from home on occasion. However, it is good to be aware of the fact that your employer has the same responsibilities regarding your health and safety when you work at home as when you work in the office. The Health and Safety Executive state the following for employers: “As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers.” This means that your employer has to ensure that you have a safe work space available to you, and that the equipment you are working with is safe.
Questions you should therefore ask yourself include whether you have a dedicated workspace, and if you can demonstrate that this is where you work regularly. If you have an accident during working hours but this occurred outside of your home, and you normally work at a desk, it may be difficult to justify your claim.
An aspect which the Health and Safety Executive place particular importance on on their website is a worker’s mental health. Working from home or being a lone worker can be quite isolating which has an impact on mental health. HSE has plenty of advice for employers, but it is valuable to know this as an employee as well, because you then know what kind of coverage you have in your working from home insurance.
Examples of what counts as a home office accident
As mentioned above, it may be difficult to prove that your injury was work-related if you’re working from home. Employers are not liable to compensate you for injury if you trip over your child’s toy whilst working, for example. Working from home with children can be a challenge, but the health and safety surrounding that is not your employer’s responsibility. However, if you are tasked with sewing something for work and you injure yourself whilst doing this work-related task, you employer is responsible for this if, for example, the working equipment you were given was defective and this caused the injury.
Unfortunately, thisarea is often unclear, which is why people end up having to employ lawyers to help them with their claim. Although HSE state that your employer has the same responsibility to ensure you are safe at work, not every incident at home during working hours counts as ana home office accident.
What should you do in case of an accident during working hours in your home office?
The examplesexample shown above meanmeans that you need to ensure your general liability and healthcare insurances are up to date when working from home. You will not always be covered by your employer’s insurance, and OSHA don’tnot all incidents at home count all injuries during working hours as workplace injuries. What you should do to help any claims made in relation to a true workplace-related injury is detailed below, and applies to any home worker’s insurance.
If the work itself was the cause of injury, you should document the case as accurately as possible and inform your employer so they can fill out an an incident report form.
You may also wish to document the following for your own records:
- the circumstances of the accident,
- the location,
- the exact time and,
- anything that might be relevant in any way.
Take note of all the details and take photos, for example, of your office at home. Make a note of which working materials you were using at the time the accident occurred and whether and when you called your work to report the accident – and who your contact person was. Inform your insurance company as soon as possible because waiting decreases your credibility. It is also helpful if you have a witness to the accident – family members, for example, or a neighbour whom you asked for help after it happened.
If you have not already done so, consider taking out a private accident insurance policy. This provides protection not only in terms of home office insurance, but across all leisure activities and can be tailored to individual needs.