New Ways of Working

Explore and keep track of key legal and compliance considerations for multinational employers as new ways of working become increasingly embedded as the pandemic begins to recede. Learn more about the response taken in specific countries or build your own report to compare approaches taken around the world.

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12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

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Argentina

  • at MBB Balado Bevilacqua
  • at MBB Balado Bevilacqua
  • at MBB Balado Bevilacqua

Employers must notify the corresponding labour risk insurer (ART) about any employees that work remotely to ensure that in the event of an accident or illness the ART will provide cover. ARTs must determine new policies addressed to the home-office framework to control and verify the conditions under which remote work is undertaken and to indemnify remote workers. 

In addition, the ML must research the applicable hygiene and safety conditions. If an employee under the home office framework suffers an accident at home, it will be considered a work-related accident and will be covered by the corresponding ART, if the accident: took place where the employee has disclosed they are working from; it occurred during their working day; and it happened while they were working.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Australia

  • at People + Culture Strategies

Employers have an obligation under health and safety legislation to take all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of workers. This obligation does not cease where the work is carried out remotely, and in the context of a remote-working arrangement, key considerations for employers may include:

  • whether employees have a safe space in which to work;
  • whether employees have the necessary equipment, including an ergonomic desk and chair; and
  • being aware that employees may face increased pressure on their mental health and wellbeing when working from home for extended periods, and taking appropriate actions which may include:
    • checking in with employees on a semi-regular basis to ensure they do not feel isolated and/or excluded; and
    • reminding employees of what counselling services or other wellbeing programs are available for them to access.

 

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Austria

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

Any regulations concerning the general protection of workers apply to teleworkers as well. Only workplace-related regulations do not apply here. Thus, an employer's duty of care does not end at the worker’s front door when the worker performs their work from home. In Austria, several large companies produce videos for their workers showing the ideal design of a teleworking workplace. They use these videos to support their workers to set up their teleworking workplace properly. In some cases, workers are even offered the opportunity to film their workplace and send the video to the employer. Experts then assess whether the workplace meets occupational health and safety requirements.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Belgium

  • at Van Olmen & Wynant

Until the pandemic, there were almost no legal rules relating to health and safety for remote workers, other than those laid down in article 15 of CBA No. 85 on structural teleworking. This article states that the act of teleworking should be communicated and also the rules concerning health and safety, specifically the use of computer screens, should be respected. Next, the health and safety prevention service would also need to access the workplace of the teleworker to see whether health and safety rules are respected or correctly applied.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Brazil

  • at Pinheiro Neto
  • at Pinheiro Neto Advogados

Employers are still responsible, to a certain extent, for ensuring a healthy and safe workplace even in a remote setting. The CLT establishes that employers must give express guidelines on ergonomics for employees to observe at home, which employees must acknowledge. Furthermore, the Labour Public Prosecutor issued Technical Note No. 17/2020 to guide companies through the pandemic, when many companies have shifted to a remote model. Among such guidelines, employers have been advised to provide training on health and safety.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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France

  • at Proskauer Rose
  • at Proskauer Rose
  • at Proskauer Rose

The health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers are the following:

  • Modes of work time control or workload regulation;
  • Determination of the time slots during which the employer can usually contact the remote worker to respect the right to disconnect and the right to privacy;
  • Organise an annual meeting to discuss working conditions and workload; and
  • Evaluate professional risks, in particular those linked to the employee's distance from the colleagues and regulating the use of digital tools.
Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Germany

  • at CMS Hasche Sigle

Employers' main considerations regarding the health and safety of remote workers should focus on a risk assessment of their remote workplace and the safety training of remote workers. It should be emphasised in this context that employers are only required to do what is actually within their power and control. In the case of remote working, employers are therefore particularly dependent on their employees' cooperation to ensure occupational safety.

Based on these considerations, remote workplaces must be subject to a risk assessment. Employers may try to personally inspect the workplace at the private home of an employee. However, this is unusual and, because of the constitutional protection of the integrity of the home, is subject to the employee's consent. Furthermore, especially in the case of mobile work, it must be taken into account that the place of work is not fixed and is determined by the employee. Thus, the employer usually requests the information required for the risk assessment by obtaining sufficiently specific information from the employee. The physical stresses resulting from the location of the workplace, the equipment of the work materials, the amount of light at the workplace, the height of a work desk; and the working environment must be taken into account. This applies to private workplaces as well as to workplaces in co-working spaces or other work environments (eg, hotel, train). Also, the psychological stress resulting from the duration of working hours, the lack of (personal) contact with colleagues and customers or the increasing mixing of private and professional life must be recorded. Based on the risk assessment of the remote workplace, the employer must prepare instructions on necessary measures to protect health and safety and ensure those instructions are implemented. These instructions should enable the employee to recognise and avoid hazards in their remote workplace.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Greece

  • at Kyriakides Georgopoulos Law Firm
  • at Kyriakides Georgopoulos Law Firm
  • at Kyriakides Georgopoulos Law Firm

Key considerations include health and safety issues, both in terms of mental health due to employees’ isolation from their colleagues, and in terms of safety because when working from home it is difficult to identify what constitutes and what does not constitute a work accident.

In general, employers are liable towards employees for health and safety issues even during the remote-working arrangement; the employer is obliged to inform remote workers regarding company policies on health and safety matters including information about organisational and technical issues, equipment usage guidelines and inform them of the procedure to be followed if there is an accident during working hours, their right to take adequate breaks and their right to disconnect.

A new ministerial decision that will further specify such health and safety rules as well as the procedure that the Labour Inspectorate will follow to check compliance with health and safety measures is expected soon.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Hong Kong

  • at Lewis Silkin
  • at Lewis Silkin
  • at Lewis Silkin

There are no specific health and safety rules that have been introduced for remote workers by the government. However, employers must abide by their statutory and common law duty to ensure the health and safety at work of their employees, as far as is reasonably practicable. This obligation would likely extend to remote working (although this has not yet been tested in the courts). Employers would therefore be required to ensure that their employees’ home-working environment is commensurate with the standards that they are required to uphold in the workplace, otherwise they may find themselves liable for breach of their statutory or common law duties.

While there has been no specific legislation on health and safety considerations for remote workers, some employers in Hong Kong have introduced policies and guidelines for remote workers, including related to workspace configuration, conducting desk assessments, recommended stretches and breaks and also a focus on mental health.

Last updated on 11/10/2021

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India

  • at Nishith Desai
  • at Nishith Desai

India has labour laws concerning compensation payable by the employer for any personal injury caused to an employee “arising out of and in the course of” employment. While these laws have been extended in cases where an employee was travelling on official duties, we are yet to come across a specific precedent related to remote working in India. Additionally, remote working has led to the emergence of several unprecedented mental health-related issues among employees working from home, which is something employers are grappling with. Employers should also ascertain whether its insurance coverage applies to employees working remotely.

Last updated on 18/11/2021

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Ireland

Ireland

  • at Littler

Employers have an ongoing legal duty to maintain a safe working place and environment. Responsibility for health and safety at work rests with the employer, whether or not that work is being done at the worker’s home.

Employers need to consult with their employees to assure themselves:

  • that the employee is aware of any specific risks regarding working from home
  • that the work activity and the temporary workspace are suitable
  • that they provide suitable equipment to enable the work to be done
  • that there is a pre-arranged means of contact.

The Health and Safety Authority has produced helpful guidance and information on the health and safety issues relating to remote working, which is available here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Italy

  • at Toffoletto De Luca Tamajo

Under Smart Working regulations, employees can choose the place in which they perform their work activity. Consequently, employers are not required to verify the safety of any possible place of work but must provide employees with information. In particular, employers have to provide employees and the workers’ safety representative, at least on an annual basis, with a document which indicates the general risks and the connected specific risks linked to Smart Working.

Furthermore, it is highly recommended for employers to organise courses focused on the peculiarities of smart working (especially from an H&S perspective). In any case, employees are required to cooperate in the implementation of safety measures in order to address the risks associated with the performance of work outside the premises of the company.

©Toffoletto De Luca Tamajo, ©Ius Laboris

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Mexico

  • at Marván, González Graf y González Larrazolo
  • at Marván, González Graf y González Larrazolo
  • at Marván, González Graf y González Larrazolo

The 2019 reform on teleworking provides for specific protection to ensure workers' health and safety rights. A Mexican Official Standard Regulation (NOM) must be published within 18 months of the enactment of the Reform; however, the authorities have not issued any additional provisions yet.

The only current and relevant obligation for employers with remote workers related to health and safety is to register their employees at the IMSS. Registration with the IMSS ensures standard health and safety protection, such as the applicable framework for other workers. Further, employers must guarantee a safe working environment, and provide adequate equipment to render services. Nevertheless, executing a written agreement with remote employees stating their sole and individual responsibility for ensuring that they are fulfilling their work duties in a safe environment has become standard practice.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Netherlands

  • at Rutgers & Posch
  • at Rutgers & Posch

An employer has the statutory duty of care to provide employees with a safe and healthy working environment irrespective of whether work is performed from the office or “location-independent work”, based on the Dutch Working Conditions Act and article 7:658 DCC. Additional rules and obligations apply based on the Working Conditions Decree and the Working Conditions Regulations. The Netherlands Labour Authority (a governmental institution) enforces this legislation and if there is non-compliance, a penalty can ultimately be imposed. The Netherlands Labour Authority is also competent to inspect the workplace; even when employees are working remotely.

In short, the key health and safety obligations for “location-independent work” are that the workstation must meet the criteria for ergonomic working and computer screen equipment, unless this cannot reasonably be expected from the employer (Chapter 5 Working Conditions Regulations). Employers must ensure their workers have proper supplies, such as approved chairs and tables, good artificial lighting (unless the employee already has such facilities) and that employees with special needs are accommodated. The employer should bear or reimburse the costs incurred (article 44 Working Conditions Act). Employers should, furthermore, regularly and pro-actively inform employees of healthy working conditions and the furnishings for an ergonomic workspace. This is a continuous duty of care. Employers should also check whether the remote workspace complies with working conditions obligations, for example by having a picture or video taken of the workspace by the employee. Furthermore, based on Article 3 paragraph 2 of the Working Conditions Act, the employer is obligated to have a policy in place aimed at preventing and – if that is not possible – limiting the psychosocial workload (PSA).

For location-independent work, health and safety obligations are somewhat alleviated compared to working at the office. The most important exception is that chapter 3 of the Working Conditions Decree concerning the arrangement of the workplace is not applicable, meaning that regulations relating to escape routes, emergency exits, firefighting, preventing the risk of falling, etc, do not apply to location-independent work.

Last updated on 08/03/2022

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Poland

  • at Bird & Bird
  • at Bird & Bird

The duty to protect the health and safety of employees and provide a safe place and system of work also applies to the remote workplace. Employers should ensure that the working environment of an employee is assessed for risks. Also, the remote workplace may be inspected by an employee (or an authorised person) at the employee’s request.

Employees can undertake their own risk assessment on behalf of and under the supervision of an employer; if so, confirmation from the employee regarding health and safety compliance of their workplace (usually their place of residence) is recommended.

Also, there should be procedures in place to allow remote workers to report serious accidents in the course of work.

Last updated on 21/03/2022

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

According to the Portuguese Labour Code, teleworking employees have the same rights and duties as other employees, namely concerning working conditions, health and safety, and medical care arising from work accidents or occupational illnesses. Employers must also be mindful of the isolation of remote employees by ensuring regular contact with the company and other employees.

Employers are responsible for the identification and management of risks in teleworking and on-site work alike. When addressing the health and safety risks of remote working, employers must pay particular attention to psychosocial risks and ergonomic factors.

Employers must organise, in specific and adequate terms, and with respect for employee privacy, the means necessary to fulfil their responsibilities regarding health and safety at work. Employers must provide employees with good working conditions both physically and psychologically; and carry out occupational health examinations before the implementation of the teleworking policy, and annual examinations thereafter to assess the physical and mental aptitude of employees to perform their work, the impact of the activity and the conditions in which it is provided on their health, as well as any preventive measures that may be appropriate.

Employees must give access to the place they telework to professionals designated by their employer to evaluate and control the health and safety conditions at work, at a previously agreed time, between 9am and 7pm, and within the employee’s working hours.

Employers must also keep insurance companies informed of the specific workplace of remote or teleworking, to ensure that their policy will cover any work accident that might occur.

Last updated on 07/03/2022

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Qatar

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

The Qatar Labour Law does not consider remote working separately. The general health and safety provisions set out in the Qatar Labour Law will need to continue to be complied with where applicable. 

Key health and safety considerations for remote working include:

  • Mental health – employers should consider what measures they can take to minimise the impact of remote working on employee mental health. This might include the introduction of wellbeing policies, counselling, and employee assistance programmes.
  • Electrical equipment – employers need to consider the provision and maintenance of electrical equipment.
  • Working environment – consideration should be given as to whether the employee has a suitable working environment.
Last updated on 08/11/2021

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Saudi Arabia

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

The KSA Labour Law does not consider remote working separately. The KSA Labour Law sets out certain health and safety procedures that employers must adhere to. Most of these requirements apply to all employers while some are sector-specific. In general, an employer is required to provide a healthy work environment for its workers that is devoid of any causes for occupational diseases, accidents or injuries. An employer must minimise the danger of tools and equipment used on site and prevent the occurrence of any accidents to maintain the health and safety of humans and protect properties from being damaged or destroyed.

Key health and safety considerations for remote working include:

  • Mental health – employers should consider what measures they can take to minimise the impact of remote working on employee mental health. This might include the introduction of wellbeing policies, counselling, and employee assistance programmes.
  • Electrical equipment – employers need to consider the provision and maintenance of electrical equipment.
  • Working environment – consideration should be given as to whether the employee has a suitable working environment.
Last updated on 29/11/2021

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Spain

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Articles 15 and 16 of the Law on Remote Working provide that remote workers are entitled to appropriate health and safety conditions in the workplace, and that risk assessment and prevention planning should consider the specific risks of remote working, in particular, psychosocial, ergonomic and organisational factors.

The Law on Remote Working refers especially to labour conditions such as working-time distribution, employee availability, rest time and the right to disconnect to be considered for occupational risks purposes.

Indeed, article 18 of that Law provides that remote workers are entitled to digital disconnection outside their working hours, which means that the employer must have in place an internal policy on the right to disconnect, and training and awareness action on the reasonable use of technological tools to prevent computer fatigue. Before implementing this internal policy, employers must consult with workers’ representatives.

Collective bargaining agreements may further develop this right.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Sweden

  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper

Under Swedish law, employers have overall responsibility for the employee’s work environment and must take all necessary measures to prevent employees from being exposed to risks of injury or ill-health. This responsibility lies with the employer irrespective of whether the work is performed at the office or remotely. Employees, however, also have an obligation to participate in work environment management and should participate in the implementation of any measures necessary to achieve a good working environment, as well as draw attention to potential safety risks. A close dialogue between the employer and employees is important, and often even more so where the work is carried out remotely.

The employer’s management of the working environment should be conducted systematically, ensuring that it fulfils applicable rules and regulations for a good work environment. This systematic management should include risk assessments of the business, active measures, and follow-ups in respect of the work environment. Furthermore, employers must, as a main rule, implement adequate action plans and policies to ensure a safe working environment. In companies with many remote workers, it is generally a good idea to set up clear guidelines for remote-working routines (eg, regarding support, communication and physical equipment).

Last updated on 24/01/2022

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Switzerland

  • at Lenz & Staehelin

In general, employers must take necessary measures to protect the life, health and safety and personal integrity of employees. They must avoid demanding excessive effort from employees and may not burden them with work that could damage their health. Therefore, they have to organise workflow in such a way as to not overwork employees. They also have communication and training obligations, in particular, informing employees and instructing them on risk-prevention measures. Employers generally must ensure that employees' workplaces are properly designed, taking into account equipment, buildings and the working environment.

These measures also apply to remote working and employers are not relieved of their obligation to protect employees' health and safety when work is performed offsite. In the case of remote working at the employer's request, employers have to ensure that employees are provided with the necessary equipment to comply with these conditions or if necessary offer financial compensation for employees to make the necessary arrangements themselves. In any case, employers should ensure that employees are made aware of the health risks involved with remote working, in particular concerning the workplace layout working hours and rest periods.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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Turkey

  • at Gün + Partners
  • at Gün + Partners
  • at Gün + Partners

As per article 12 of the Regulation on Remote Working, employers must inform employees about the occupational health and safety measures required for remote working, provide necessary training, ensure health inspections, and take necessary measures about any equipment provided to employees.

Also, article 4 of the Occupational Health and Safety Law No. 6331 further stipulates that employers, in general, must:

  • ensure that all safety measures, including but not limited to those preventing occupational risks and providing information and training, are taken; order in the workplace; all necessary tools and equipment are supplied; health and safety measures are adjusted to changing conditions; and that the current status of the workplace improves;
  • supervise and monitor whether the occupational health and safety measures are complied with, and correct any incompatibilities;
  • conduct or ensure a risk assessment;
  • pay attention to an employee’s suitability for a role in the scope of health and safety; and
  • take the necessary measures so that employees, other than those who receive adequate information and instruction, to not enter places that would lead to life-threatening or a particular danger.

However, Turkish academics argue that several health and safety obligations may not apply to remote working, as it may not be practically possible to apply them. For instance, they state that certain obligations arising from the occupational health and safety legislation such as preparing an emergency plan, firefighting, first aid, and evacuation are not applicable to remote working, as it would be unreasonable to expect employers to fulfil these kinds of obligations regarding a place outside their authority.

To conclude, along with the obligations set out under the Regulation on Remote Working, employers should comply with general occupational health and safety obligations, where applicable.

Last updated on 09/02/2022

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UAE

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

The general health and safety provisions set out in the UAE Labour Law will apply even in the case of remote working. The UAE Labour Law deals with many aspects of employers’ and workers’ rights and obligations emanating from the relationship established by the contract of employment. General and fairly broad guidelines are given concerning issues such as protective equipment, instruction on hazards, provision of first aid equipment and medical facilities. It also imposes obligations on workers to use the protective equipment provided and to comply with instructions given by the employer.

Key health and safety considerations for remote working include:

  • Mental health – employers should consider what measures they can take to minimise the impact of remote working on employee mental health. This might include the introduction of wellbeing policies, counselling, and employee assistance programmes.
  • Electrical equipment – employers need to consider the provision and maintenance of electrical equipment.
  • Working environment – consideration should be given as to whether the employee has a suitable working environment.
Last updated on 15/03/2022

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United Kingdom

  • at Littler

Employers have an ongoing legal duty to maintain a safe working place and environment. Responsibility for health and safety at work rests with the employer, whether or not that work is being done at the worker’s home. To comply with this duty, employers must conduct a risk assessment of the employee’s place of work; this includes when they are working from home.

Under the UK’s health and safety legislation, the HSE has issued guidance on how to safely implement homeworking arrangements: see here

In undertaking a risk assessment, employers should consider the following (non-exhaustive) factors:

  • whether the employee is aware of any specific risks regarding working from home;
  • whether the work activity and the proposed workspace are suitable;
  • whether the employee has suitable equipment to enable the work to be done and, if not, who will provide this; and
  • what the supervision or work contact arrangements for the employee will be.

The assessment can be done by the employee where they are working remotely but the employer will need to ensure it is actually completed, recorded, and periodically reviewed. Issues that arise from the risk assessment must be appropriately addressed.

There are separate regulations that deal specifically with employees who are computer users (and which regulate the usage of computers, screens, and relevant furniture such as desks and chairs), and these again also apply to home-based workers. More guidance can be found from the HSE here. The guidance includes a checklist for working with display screen equipment that employers can use: see here.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

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United States

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

The OSHA governs the relationship between employers and employees with respect to workplace health and safety, and provides employer mandates regarding possible hazards in the traditional workplace. The key issues in work from home safety revolves around ergonomics. But the law recognises that employers have limited direction and control over the employee’s residence or other remote locations such as coffee shops, public libraries and so forth.  Nevertheless, employers have in many instances required employees to commit to keeping a safe workplace in their home and wherever they may work.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021