Employee Mental Health

Many UK firms could be inadvertently neglecting their duty of care to employees working from home – and could face employee liability claims as a result.

Research by global risk management firm Gallagher amongst 1,000 business leaders and 2,000 UK workers1, found businesses have focused on the logistical aspects of working from home, however equal consideration has not been placed on their duty of care for employees’ mental health.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers are responsible for the health and safety of employees, even when they are not working on company premises – including their mental health and stress. Yet one in three (31%) business leaders are completely unaware of this, and the majority (58%) say they are unsure of their responsibilities for employees’ mental health.

Employee mental health falling through the cracks

Mental health has become a core concern during the pandemic. Gallagher’s research estimates over 10 million people (a third of the UK workforce) are currently working from home, with around 1.5 million (15%) saying their mental health has suffered due to stress from home working.

Over 900,000 workers (9%) say working from home has led to them drinking more and is causing them to suffer sleep problems. Despite these high numbers, four out of ten (40%) employees have received no mental health support from their employer.

Commenting on the findings, Alistair Dornan, Director of Organisational Wellbeing at Gallagher said: “Never before have our personal and work lives been so interwoven, and the old mantra of leaving work at the office is inconceivable in today’s world. Isolation, reduced personal contact and increased blurring of home-work life is now causing mental health to suffer. Of course, not all of this should be attributed to work, as there are many factors leading to people’s increased stress levels at the moment, but work factors are playing a significant part. Businesses cannot afford to overlook the mental wellbeing, or health and safety generally, of their employees. Not only does it make good business sense to take action to protect employees’ health and mental wellbeing, but employers may also find themselves liable, and at risk of a claim being brought against them, if it can be proved they’ve been negligent.”

Injury and accidents in the home and fear of reprisal

The risk of physical injury and work-accidents – particularly in the home – is far less than mental health or stress (e.g. working excessive hours) but the research indicates some firms are confused as to their accountability should something happen.

Alistair continues: “Six in 10 firms fear getting sued should an employee be injured while home working. To mitigate the risk, employers must be able prove they have taken reasonable care for the employee safety. It is a hectic time, but checking insurance policies, checking in on employee home-working conditions and ensuring equipment is safe, could save time and money over the long-term.”

£32bn worth of company equipment and stock in employee homes

Businesses have been loaning and buying significant amounts of equipment to enable employees to work from home, however, more than half (57%) of businesses are unsure if their company’s insurance covers items stored in employees’ homes. The study suggests UK workers are currently housing company goods and equipment worth an estimated £32bn, including laptops, computer screens, mobile phones, computing accessories, routers, desks, chairs and stock2.

“With the trend for homeworking set to continue it is vital businesses and workers fully understand their individual responsibilities and businesses looking for risk management support and advice on how best to manage remote workers should speak to a consultant that can advise on best practice.” Alistair added.

1. All data unless otherwise stated from research conducted by 3Gem, between 1 December and 15 December 2020, among 3,000 respondents including 1,000 senior decision makers in UK businesses and 2,000 UK workers. Data has been extrapolated to be representative of the UK workforce aged 18+, according to ONS Labour Market Data from November 2020.
2. £32.5bn worth of company equipment and stock in employee homes. 32% of UK workers are currently WFH - 10,318,400 people. The mean value of stock/company equipment in their homes is 3150.6. 10,318,400 x 3150.60 = £32.5bn.