Employer duty of care

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Health Assured team

19 March 2019

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your employees.

This means you’re required to take all necessary precautions to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff. It’s worth noting the employers’ responsibilities for health & safety also extends to anyone in their building—including clients and contractors.

An employer’s duty of care also extends to their mental health. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1992  requires you to assess mental health work-related issues to measure the levels of risk to staff.

There are many things that could cause employees to experience work-related stress. It may stem from over-working, inadequate training, harassment or job insecurity.


What responsibilities do employers have?

An employer’s duty of care in the workplace includes all responsibilities relating to health & safety, harassment and stress.

Other employer’s responsibilities include:

  • Providing health & safety training.
  • Protecting staff from discrimination.
  • Managing and addressing staff misconduct.
  • Managing and addressing grievances promptly and effectively.
  • Providing adequate equipment required to complete tasks.


Employee responsibilities for health & safety

As well as the employer’s responsibilities to employees, staff members also have a part to play in ensuring their health & safety.

It’s important for both teams to be able to work together to guarantee the safety of everyone at work. Employee duties include:

  • Following training provided for using equipment or devices at work.
  • Taking reasonable care of their own and other’s health & safety.
  • Reporting hazards, near misses or inadequate precautions in the workplace.
  • Co-operating with you on matters of health & safety.


Employer's duty of care for staff members with depression

The Equality Act 2010 sets out legislation that protects employees with disabilities. This extends to the employer’s duty of care for their mental health.

Work-related stress or depression can manifest itself in different ways. This can include:

  • A decline in productivity.
  • Increased sick leave.
  • Drop in punctuality.
  • Isolation from colleagues.

By conducting a risk assessment and acting on it you’re reducing the risks of employment tribunal claims.

While all businesses must complete this assessment, if you have fewer than five employees you aren’t required to write down the results of the assessment.

If you have more than five employees, by law you’re required to write the risk assessment down. Its purpose is to help you manage and communicate the risks in your business.


Making reasonable adjustments

In extreme cases, stress or depression could make an employee disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act. It’s part of the employer’s roles and responsibilities to make reasonable adjustments around the office.

Reasonable adjustments to tasks or surroundings place a disabled employee on an equal footing with non-disabled employees. Ignoring requests for reasonable adjustments opens you up for disability discrimination claims.

Examples of reasonable adjustment for employees with stress or depression include changes to:

  • Working patterns (offer flexible working, paid leave, working from home, job relocation etc.).
  • Environment (private office, partitions, quiet area, workstation move etc.).
  • Workload (reduced workload, increased supervision, job sharing etc.).


Benefits to businesses

While employers are legally required to provide a duty of care, it can also be advantageous for an organisation.

Promoting a positive internal relationship and investing in a healthy working environment contributes to higher staff engagement with the company and improved productivity from employees.

Staff members are also likely to be more loyal to your company when their health and wellbeing is propriety. This, in turn, improves your employee retention rates.


Expert Advice

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on 0844 892 2493

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