When it comes to running a business, there are several things that you need to manage. Taking care of the safety and wellness of your employees should be one of the top things on your checklist. In fact, employers have a duty of care to ensure that their employees are reasonably safe while at work.
From giving them a safe workplace to ensuring a secure way of working and providing them suitable equipment to work with, an employer’s liability covers a lot of things. To add to their responsibilities, the coronavirus pandemic has added a new dimension to this duty of care.
If you are not careful enough to protect your people from the risk, your business may land into deep trouble. Things may get worse if someone falls prey to the virus because of an action or (failure to perform an action).
Therefore, it becomes important to be aware of your responsibilities and things that can get you in a fix during these circumstances so that you can keep your business safe from litigation. Here are the acts or omissions that can elevate the risk of employee litigation against the employer in the context of the pandemic.
Not facilitating remote operations where possible
The risks of infection are evident and the government has clearly stated that businesses should make every possible effort to switch to remote work. Working from home will ensure that people are safe and isolated, even while businesses will continue to operate as usual.
If you still compel people to report at the workplace while they can work from home, they are most likely to raise an alarm. Legally, the action will be considered as a demonstrable failure in your duty of reasonable care for ensuring the safety of your employees.
You can end up in deep trouble with a claim by employees if they happen to get sick.
Failure to implement safety guidelines
For some businesses, it may not be possible to have all the employees working remotely. In that case, you will need to comply stringently with the requisite safety and social distancing guidelines. Essentially, you will have to avoid crowding and maintain adequate distance between people in the workplace.
Further, there should be adequate arrangements for sanitization, and hand hygiene should also be encouraged. You also need to take all the necessary mitigating actions to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus between the staff to prevent legal action by the employees.
Providing protective equipment, for example, is an essential aspect of workers’ safety as they can protect them from the virus to a considerable extent.
Not preventing the infected employees from coming back to work
Apart from remote work and workplace safety guidelines, there are also some clear ones related to having the infected employees back to work. Someone with symptoms should not be allowed to come to the office because they can be a risk for the others.
It is best to seek legal guidance when it comes to proper adherence of the guidelines. Look for a law firm dedicated to its clients because they will have the best possible advice, considering the complicated and changing stay at home guidance.
Remind your employees about the significance of self-isolation if they have any symptoms because it is as much their duty as it is yours. Have a clear process for sickness reporting and sick pay and also implement procedures to manage things if someone reports a potential infection.
Dealing with employee claims
Right now, the situation is unprecedented and it is hard to have a clear idea about how employee claims would pan out. When they bring up a claim against the employer for causing infection to them, establishing causation is probably the biggest challenge.
Considering the scale of the outbreak, it wouldn’t be easy to prove that they got infected at the workplace rather than elsewhere. Despite the complex nature of these cases, businesses need to take the right actions to protect themselves from these claims. Legal hassles are the last thing you would want to face during the crisis and paying attention to workplace safety can make all the difference.
The nature of coronavirus claims is complex and confusing at this stage. Still, one thing that is very clear is the employer’s liability for the safety and well-being of the employees. Taking the right precautionary measures is valuable as it not only cuts down the risk of litigation but also fosters employee trust and keeps your business safe from the virus in the long run.