Empty city streets and business hubs have received considerable media attention since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020. As the picture of a post-COVID world slowly comes into focus, it seems we are unlikely to return to the office in the same numbers as before. Large companies such as Dropbox and Facebook have already committed to continuing remote working in the years to come.
Fifty of the biggest UK employers questioned by the BBC stated at the time that they had no plans to return all staff to the office full time in the near future. Twenty-four firms said that they did not have any plans in place to return workers to the office, however, 20 had opened their offices for staff unable to work from home.
For many employees who were relocated from an office location to their own homes, the transition involved the relocation of electrical office equipment such as laptops, computers, and tablets.
The charity Electrical Safety First has conducted research into the dangers to which remote workers may be unknowingly exposed to due to the increased use of electrical equipment in the home.
It is a legal requirement for employers to provide suitable and sufficient equipment for the role being undertaken and to ensure that the maintenance of the equipment is to the required standard. However, it is not a requirement for employers to ensure that the electrical infrastructure of the employees’ property is in good working order. Neither is it a requirement for employers to maintain items such as adaptors and extensions unless they were provided by the employer for work-related purposes.
The employer must make sure there is a risk assessment of employees work activities and work equipment. During national lockdowns, the restrictions put in place to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission meant that employers could rely on a process of self-assessment. Employees were encouraged to inspect their electrical equipment and notify their employer of any faults or defects.
However, as the coronavirus restrictions continue to ease and the reopening of workplaces gathers pace, employers will need to restore their pre-pandemic approach to the management of equipment and deal with any backlogs that have developed.
Employers must ensure that the electrical equipment is:
Although the employer is responsible for the maintenance of the equipment, they are not responsible for electrical sockets and other parts of a domestic electrical system, and so these are the employee’s responsibility.
Employee’s home insurance may be affected by working from home for prolonged periods – employees should check with their home insurance provider.
It is also recommended that homeworking employees are advised to carry out visual safety inspections on a regular basis to ensure:
Employers should ensure that electrical faults are reported without delay, even on suspicion alone, and processes are in place to remove suspected faulty equipment from use until such times that they can be inspected, repaired, or replaced.
The effects of the pandemic and associated lockdowns has been quite profound on people in their personal and professional capacities.
For some, easing of restrictions may result in their return to a pre-pandemic full-time office existence. For others, they may be permanently working from home, or subject to a more dynamic approach which divides their time between off and home.
Where employers have decided in a continuation of the homeworking strategy post-pandemic, they must carefully consider how they are to manage the associated risks effectively.
Employees may be out of sight, but they must never be out of an employer’s mind.