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COVID-19 lockdown fuels mental health crisis

The focus to date on health and safety measures has been to protect employees, customers and clients against contracting the highly contagious coronavirus. With the pandemic front of mind, companies have worked hard to ensure social distancing rules can be adhered to and to provide extra cleaning, but they are paying less attention to more mundane issues such as office-based injuries.

Employers are exposed to two types of claims.

They could be found in breach of a duty of care obligation. This is a common law obligation and if breached would result in a civil matter, although the most likely avenue for employees to pursue this type of claim is through workers’ compensation.

Alternatively, employers could be accused of breaching a statutory obligation to provide safe systems of work, which could result in a criminal action against the company or directors, who could be individually prosecuted under work, health and safety legislation.

Employers can mitigate potential legal action and insurance claims by conducting an audit of employees’ working arrangements in the home. This could be in the form of a questionnaire, or the company could conduct a video meeting to inspect, or help staff set up, their home arrangements properly.

Providing staff with equipment will also help, but employers need to bear in mind that some staff do not have the space at home to set up an ergonomic work station.

Employers also need to be mindful of mental health issues that could arise from employees feeling isolated and anxious working from home in uncertain times. Employers are exposed to mental health injury claims, which could be mitigated by activities such as frequent communication and workplace behaviour training.

Ref: Laura Sowden

This article has been prepared by WR Law for information purposes only and is not legal advice. Please contact WR Law directly for legal advice regarding your specific circumstances.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.