Over the years, experts have highlighted numerous benefits of working from home – from improved work/life balance; reducing traffic congestion and even helping reduce the cost of office rent. Whatever your reasons are for working from home, or allowing your staff to do so, there are a few boxes you’ll want to make sure you’re ticking to ensure your employees have the best experience, and prepare your business for some additional complexities having a mobile workforce can bring.
1. You’re still responsible for the health & safety of your employees.
Your employees may not be in your office physically, but as long as they’re on your payroll, receiving a pay check from you and have been asked to work from home you have a duty of care ‘as reasonably practicable’ to ensure their health and safety while working from home, the same as you would be if they were working in your office. It is therefore, your duty of care to ensure the environment they’re working in is safe, set up ergonomically and does not pose a risk to their health and safety.
We also suggest keeping your employees’ mental health in mind – when you have a team working remotely, communication is essential, so it’s worth checking in with your team at least once per day to see how they’re feeling, whether that’s via phone call or video conferencing – overcommunication can sometimes be the better approach in these instances. For further information on mental health support check out www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-illness.
To help you make sure your staff do have an appropriate work environment, we've developed this guide which sets out the different factors to consider, and what a good work station set up looks like.
So what happens if your employee suffers an injury or illness while they’re working remotely and the injury or illness is a result of the work they perform for you? If the injury arises out of the course of employment, even while working from home, in most cases the employer's workers' compensation insurance will cover that employee.
2. You still need to keep your Professional Indemnity Insurance
Working from home might be saving you time and commute costs, but it doesn’t rid your business of professional liability risks. If you still have clients you’re providing advice to, the possibility of them alleging you provided incorrect advice or caused them financial loss is still there. If you’re currently servicing fewer clients than before, it might also be tempting to reduce the limit on the PI policy you hold, but before doing this, it’s important to check with your relevant association and/or contracts to ensure you’re not exposing your business to breach of contract. Even if your business is not servicing any clients due to the current environment, it may not be wise to completely cancel your Professional Indemnity Insurance as you may still have previous clients bring forth new claims. Since Professional Indemnity is ‘claims-made’ policy, it needs to be in place at the time a claim is made, so it’s a policy worth keeping active. If your business has stopped operating due to the current environment, under most PI policies you can apply for run-off cover, in the event a former client brings a claim against you for your actions whilst you were operating.
Cyber risks apply to any business that uses the internet to perform any part of its work, or stores any data – regardless of where you work.
3. You may be susceptible to Cyber risks
Cyber risks apply to any business that uses the internet to perform any part of its work, or stores any data – regardless of where you work. For example, if you work from home and have younger children (or even teens), all it would take is one of them accessing your laptop and unintentionally downloading malware to send your entire IT system into meltdown. Even if you don’t have children, you’re not immune to these threats as cyber criminals have become so sophisticated, phishing emails are nearly impossible to distinguish from genuine communications. Furthermore, small businesses have increasingly been targets of cyber crime in recent years, so gone are the days where cyber criminals kept their sights on large corporates. Cyber Insurance has been designed to help protect businesses against financial losses arising from cyber attacks and crime, and in our opinion, should be seriously considered by businesses with a digital footprint assessing their insurance options.
4. Your business equipment might need to be insured separately
Working from home usually involves a laptop, and while the cost of a single laptop might not seem like a lot to you, if you run an agency where you have multiple staff working from home, and an event leads to them being damaged or lost, the cost to replace multiple laptops would be a big bill to foot.. When insuring your portable electronic devices, it’s important to clarify with your broker whether they’re covered for loss or damage while they’re outside your office or at an employee’s home – if this isn’t standard coverage under your policy, then you may be able to select it as an optional extra. Even if you have them listed under your Home Contents insurance, personal insurance products often exclude damage which occurs to products while in use for business purposes.
5. You still need a Business Interruption Plan
Mobile working is often a contingency plan when an event leads to a business’s premises being inaccessible or locked down. However it’s also a good idea to have a back-up plan if for some reason your remote work plans fail. For example, if your own home or your employees’ home is damaged due to a weather event, or you have a crucial meeting which needs to be held in person, you might want to have a back-up plan, or a teleconferencing system to ensure you can keep your business running smoothly.
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