Commercial Insurance Profile – October 2020

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Address Ergonomics for Employees Continuing to Work Remotely

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to force many organisations and employees to conduct operations in a remote work environment, it is important that all parties involved understand the importance of proper ergonomics. Whether employers are in the process of reopening or have been able to remain operational throughout lockdown, acknowledging the new challenges that come with working remotely is a key step.

Employees who work remotely may not have access to the same level of professional equipment as they would in a traditional work environment. As such, the ergonomics of an employee’s home workstation may be subpar.

Ergonomics plays a key role in the health of employees. Poor conditions can lead to a number of health effects, including eye problems, muscle strains and fatigue.

Employers should provide guidance on a variety of ergonomics-related subjects for employees working remotely, such as:

  • Workstation location – Discourage employees from attempting to work while sitting on their couches or in bed.
  • Proper posture – Instruct employees to use chairs with adequate back support. Chairs should be pushed up close to an employee’s work surface so that they can rest their back against the backrest while also being able to comfortably reach their keyboard and mouse.
  • Chair height – Chairs should be at a height that allows an employee’s arms to be positioned so that their forearms and wrists are straight and level with the floor while reaching for the work surface. Feet should be able to rest flat, whether it be on the floor or with assistance from a footrest.
  • Breaks – Employees should be instructed to take frequent, regular breaks in order to avoid sitting in the same position for too long. Encourage employees to stand up, stretch and move around during breaks.


Employment Tribunal Case Serves as Reminder of Worker Status

The Employment Tribunal reached a decision on 24th July ruling that five same-day cycle couriers be rewarded holiday pay.

The case of Mr S O’Eachtiarna and others v CitySprint UK Ltd stemmed from the group of couriers claiming to have had worker status, and therefore, under the Employment Rights Act 1996, being entitled to holiday pay, both before and after an update to their contractual terms and conditions in November 2017.

This case bore a resemblance to a Dewhurst v CitySprint UK Ltd case in which a courier was found to be a worker despite being described as a self-employed contractor in his contract. Due to that decision, the Tribunal ruled in favour of the claimants having been workers prior to November 2017.

As for after CitySprint’s adjustments to contractual terms and conditions, the Tribunal ruled that the claimants retained worker status even after the changes. This decision was based in large part on a substitution clause in the new contract. The Tribunal found that personal performance remained a primary element of the contract, and that, although a substitution clause did exist, it was purely theoretical and never exercised.

The ruling serves as another example of a growing list of cases in which self-employed contractors have been ruled to be workers. For employers, the decision should serve as a reminder of the importance of being mindful when drafting contracts.

Prevent Manual Handling Injuries

According to the HSE, manual handling tasks account for over one-third of all workplace injuries. Manual handling refers to a variety of activities, such as lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying. Consider these steps to minimise risks to workers:

  • Assess – Consider each task individually, including the load, environment and employee assigned to complete it.
  • Modify – If a task seems risky, consider dividing the load into smaller parts or even rearranging the physical layout of the workplace to reduce carrying distances.
  • Mechanise – Use equipment and machines, such as forklifts, hoists or conveyors.
  • Train – Educate employees on proper lifting techniques.

For more information on these topics, contact your Konsileo broker today.

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