The roundtable discussed the Guide for Safe and Healthy Work from Home, issued by the Health and Safety Directorate in January 2021, and other aspects of working remotely, a practice that exploded over the past year as the world adapted to social distancing measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. The roundtable was moderated by Dragana Bajić, attorney at law and chairperson of AmCham’s Labour Regulations Committee.
The panellists acknowledged that the Guide was a list of recommendations and directions rather than a binding regulation. Theincluded checklist was described as a helpful tool for employers to assess risks associated with employees working from home, and that staff could also complete a self-assessment to this end. Any checks made by the Labour Inspection wouldfollow the legal framework set out in the Guide, but the document itself was not mandatory, meaning inspection authorities could only recommend that employers follow it, rather than ordering them to adhere to its instructions.
Many employees were currently forced to work remotely due to the need for social distancing caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but the participants expected them to return to the office once the coronavirus outbreak is over. The pandemic did prompt the Directorate to issue the Guide, the panelagreed, but the document ought to be seen more broadly as a set of recommendations that could be used regardless of whether working from home was a public health measure or part of a company’s regular working arrangements. The Labour Inspection noted it been advising firms to organise remote working to the extent their capacities reasonably allowed it, but that workers had a statutory right to a safe and healthy working environment provided by the employer.
Corporate risk assessment documents had to be amended when staff worked from home as a matter of course, but this was not a mandatory requirement for remote working under lockdown. This broadened risk assessment should group together positions that involved working from home and focus on identifiable risks and feasible preventive measures.
The Guide followed examples of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and the International Labour Organisation in widening risk assessments to also look at stress and risks to mental health. The panellists found this extended coverage particularly important as workers were exposed not only to physical hazards, but also threats to mental well-being.
Click here to download the online version of the Guide.