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What are the real risks of remote working?

At a glance

  • 14% of the UK’s working population now operate from home
  • Companies need to consider data and health and safety risks
  • Brokers should recommend checking domestic policies to see if they provide adequate coverage

The number of home workers in the UK has risen to record levels, forcing companies to carefully consider the risks that remote workers now represent.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that almost 14% (4.2 million people) of the UK’s in-work population now operate from home. This is the highest rate since records began in 1998, and highlights the need for insurers and brokers to talk with customers about the risks created by these new working patterns.

There are three key areas for companies to consider – data, physical risks, and health and safety.

Remote working

Data risks

When it comes to data, the primary consideration is the security of the IT network in place for remote workers. Businesses need to carefully monitor who has access to the network and create clear guidelines about how security software is kept up to date.

Where employees use their own devices, it is important to segregate personal data and company data in terms of both accessibility and storage.

Physical risks

In addition to the electronic risks that come with remote working, physical ones must also be considered. Paper copies of documents, electronic equipment and stock should all be stored and safeguarded effectively, and reasonable security measures must be in place to deter and prevent theft.

Depending on the sensitivity of documents and the nature of the equipment used by home workers, it may be necessary to consider particular measures to protect against fire and flood. This might include enhancing security or raising certain pieces of equipment off the floor.

Health and safety risks

At a health and safety level, employers need to consider how workstations are set up, and whether they could lead to potential problems such as repetitive strain injury or back pain. Whether home workers use computer equipment or tools for the likes of packaging and small-scale manufacturing, the work environment needs to be safe.

Employers must also consider who is responsible for carrying out risk assessments of individual work places and how this information is recorded. Without such data, claims defensibility becomes a real issue for companies, and could impact their claims experience and future cost of insurance.

All companies need to decide how to mitigate these risks and how far they can discharge their responsibilities by putting employees through training, issuing work guidelines or carrying out site visits in person.

The type of work carried out by individual staff will determine the best approach for employers to take, as will other factors such as whether employees hold stock at their residential premises or if clients come to their home on a regular basis.

Discuss changes in risk

The on-going trend for people to work remotely offers brokers an opportunity to display their expertise and discuss how this changes the risks faced by customers.

Brokers can guide clients away from potential issues by helping to identify the issues early. They can also offer individual employees access to advice on the domestic insurance policies they have in place, and whether these provide the level of cover required for the work they are doing from home.

Not only does this help to safeguard both the employee and the employer, but it could also generate a new revenue stream where brokers arrange new policies or extensions.

Where people work from home, they are expected to operate with the same level of professionalism as their desk or factory-based colleagues. Employers must match that professionalism by ensuring their insurance programme is equally well considered.

Image © Getty

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