Covid-19 cases sadly are spiking all around the world! Who knows at this point how long this will continue? At the time of this writing, the very first recipient, a 90-year-old woman from the UK, got the very first COVID vaccine. Shipments of the vaccine are going out all around the world, but it truly is anyone’s guess as to how long this pandemic will last; It goes without saying that we have a long way to go. This means more and more employers, just like you, who recently had their employees return to working in the office, are now having them once again go back to working out of their homes.
So what are the ramifications of having your employees work from home as an employer?
When they are on the clock, you have, in legalese terms, “The duty of care” to provide a safe work environment. So how can you control and ensure that your employees are safe?
- If they trip and fall while on the clock and working for you, are you liable?
- Do workers comp cover employees while working at home?
These questions intrigued me, so I reached out to a few attorneys and sought legal advice.
The first thing I learned was that anyone can bring a lawsuit against anyone for any reason, at any time. That doesn’t mean they will win; it simply means that people have the legal right to do so.
The second item is that “the burden of proof” would be upon the employee to prove negligence on your part as their employer. For instance, let’s say they have a messy house and things scattered on the floor. They trip and fall down a flight of stairs while on the clock and decide to bring a lawsuit against you.
“That would be very difficult for them to prove!” Said one of the attorneys. “But is it possible?” I further pressed. “Yes, it is, but highly unlikely.” According to one of the attorneys I spoke to. He continued by saying, “However, I have learned there is never such a thing as a slam dunk case, and anything is possible, as I have seen cases go in directions I never, ever thought would be possible, so I’ve learned never to say never!”
The courts use the term “equity,” and when they use this term, they are really saying “fairness.” The judge/courts try to determine what is fair in a case, and in some cases, fairness can be tossed out the window. Workers comp would cover your employees if injured while working from home, while on the clock. So we don’t encourage you to cancel it anytime soon.
So what then? Prevention is worth the cure!
Obviously, it goes without saying that no one wants a lawsuit, especially from a current or former employee. Talk about a strained relationship! So although your employees won’t know that you have an ulterior motive, we encourage you to reach out to your employees and share some of the following thoughts while they are working from home:
- Let them know that a clean work environment allows you to have fewer distractions and enables them to work more effectively. Encourage a clean work area and home! You may even want to give them a paid hour or two, to take time to have a really clean home. They will really be amazed how cool of a boss/company you are by doing so! Studies have shown that people with “clean work areas are more effective at accomplishing tasks.”
- If you want to share with them a good video, have your team members watch the video of a general who starts off his talk by saying, “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed! Here is a link to a shortened version that you can send your employees, but the full video is worth your time! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sK3wJAxGfs
- Encourage them to stand and stretch for a minute or two. Use the time to get the blood flowing by going up and downstairs, etc. While doing so, grab dishes on the way (up or down).
- Lastly, let them know you care about them, their family, and that you want them to be safe and healthy (thus the reason you have them working from home).
By following these four simple steps, we believe you will have more productive (and safe) employees.