Last week we looked at who has a Duty of Care in a workplace, and why it is important to meet those duties.
This week we will have a look at exactly what an employer’s Duty of Care requires from an employee and give some practical tips.
What Does My Employer’s Duty of Care Require Me to Do?
Having a Duty of Care to your employees means you have some important things to consider and do:
Provide a safe working environment
You must provide a safe working environment for your staff. This might be as structurally drastic as changing the wiring in a building to make sure staff aren’t electrocuted, or it could be as simple as ensuring wires from a computer aren’t a trip hazard. You might need to replace guards on machinery, or even provide better lighting so staff can clearly see what they are doing.
It is a good idea to do a risk assessment of all the areas of your building and office and seeing how you can reduce the risks by removing the hazards. Cast a very critical eye over everything in the space, from the floor to the light fixtures, and even the kettle and telephones. Where could someone hurt themselves? What could injure someone?
Have the right people on the right job
Clearly defined job roles are an important part of meeting your Duty of Care. They help to ensure the people performing particular task are properly trained and risk assessed, which reduces the risk of injury or accident.
Train your staff and review their performance
It is vital that staff are adequately trained and that you periodically check that they are carrying out their duties safely and aren’t cutting corners. This is particularly important when the staff are doing something obviously hazardous, such as operating heavy machinery, handling explosives, or entering the homes of service users alone.
But it is also applicable and important when they are doing something seemingly innocuous, such as a desk job. It is up to you to ensure that person knows what to do in a fire, for example.
Over time, an increase in fluency in performing a task can lead to a rise in complacency, so it is important that refresher training is given at least annually, and you, or a manager, reviews the employee’s performance to ensure they are still complying with the rules and safety advice.
And be sure not to overlook the training and review of your managers, too. They need to be certain that they are training and reviewing people with total clarity and confidence.
Make sure staff don’t work excessive hours
Tired staff are unsafe and unproductive staff. It is a fact. They make mistakes and lose concentration, which results in more accidents at worst, and a reduction in productivity at best.
But not only that, but tiredness can have an impact on the wellbeing of your staff and can cause emotional problems at home, a compromised immune system, and depression. It is important to take responsibility for the hours your staff work and not allow them to work more hours than the 48 hours per week allowed.
The number of hours a person should work, however, depends on their job, age, and lifestyle. For example, an HGV driver should not work as many hours as, say, a night porter can because the impact of a lorry driver falling asleep on the job are greater than if a night porter falls asleep on the job. Plus, driving is more mentally tiring and requires a high level of concentration at all times.
Provide a rest area for down time
As mentioned above, tired staff don’t concentrate as well, don’t feel great, and aren’t productive, so providing an area for them to relax and rest in makes sense.
Not everyone has space for a sofa or a canteen though, so consider having a dedicated rest desk without a computer and a few magazines on it, or a picnic bench outside. Or, if ou have space, there are some weird and wonderful ideas out there, from hammocks and sofas, to pods and even beds.
Protect staff from bullying and harassment form colleagues or clients
We don’t know about you but we like to have a team that is based on respect and kindness, and when someone challenges that we get very upset about it.
Aside from the fact the workplace harassment is illegal, it is important to nip it in the bud because it can make people seriously unhappy, anxious, and damaged.
It can cause a toxic work environment and reduce productivity too.
All good reasons to not tolerate bullying or harassment.
Every business has awkward clients too, and every business wants to keep customers and clients on the right side-after all, they pay the wages. But there comes a point when a manager or business owner has to stand up for their colleagues and staff.
No one should face bullying or harassment at work, whoever it comes from. ACAS has some great advice on how to handle it if you come across it. This article is a good place to start.
Protect staff from discrimination
You have probably heard of the protected characteristics. It is illegal to treat an employee differently because of:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
Discrimination has wide reaching consequences. It sends a message to colleagues, families, and clients that it is ok to treat people differently because of a protected characteristic. It can cause distress to the victim and their families and harm their prospects.
You have a duty to prevent discrimination and stamp it out when it is unearthed.
Empower staff to report concerns
This can be a policy issue, and it can also be a cultural issue.
Having clear guideline on things like whistleblowing, grievances, and disciplinaries can be very helpful in giving staff the confidence to report issues or air grievances. Knowing exactly what will happen if they do, and how they will be protected can be the boost they need to report.
But fostering the correct culture that empowers staff to report issues can be trickier. Having a transparent and open culture will make staff eel confident that they can raise problems without fearing repercussions. This comes from the top, so be open, compassionate, and honest with your staff and it will pay dividends.
It can be hard to hear your own shortcomings, or those of the business you are building and love, but it makes sense, in the long run to know where you are going wrong. Attending to the needs of staff not only fulfils your Duty of Care but also means that you will recruit and retain happy, productive, and talented staff who will work hard for you.
It is much easier to make changes with your staff then to them. If you do need to change aspects of their working life to suit business needs, consulting them will give you a fresh perspective and will make sure you bring them with you, rather than turning them against you.
Staff who are consulted are empowered, and this improves their confidence and mental wellbeing.
Consider Your Lone Workers
You have a Duty of Care towards your lone workers, too. Protecting them is important, as they often face greater risks than those workers who are supervised.