Sentient Group Ltd
Info Update 2020/41                                                        Issue Date: 30/07/2020
Arrangements for display screen equipment
The COVID-19 Pandemic lead many employers to make arrangements for their employees to work from home where possible. Whilst this has been temporary for some workers, many of whom have now returned to their normal place of work, large number of employees are still working from their home office, sofa or dining table.

The HSE advice for temporary work from home indicates that there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. They advise employers to encourage employees to carry out a basic workstation risk assessment and try, so far as reasonably practicable, to set up their workstation in line with current guidance.

Some equipment is easily transportable to the employees home, e.g. laptops, computer screens, keyboard, mouse. However, many employees will not be able to accommodate a desk or office chair and it may not be feasible for employers to transport such equipment to all their employees. This means that some employees will have to work at a dining table or even from their sofa.

Employees who are unable to recreate a workstation in line with the guidance should be encouraged to try the following:
  • Sit on a cushion to raise their seated position if their table is too high – this should help them to relax their shoulders and ensure a straight line from their elbow to their wrist and keyboard.
  • Use a cushion or rolled up towel to support their lower back.
  • Use books or a box to elevate their computer screen to the correct height (provided they have a separate keyboard).
  • Take a 10-minute break away from the screen every hour, walk around and stretch

For companies where working form home has become the ‘new normal’ it is important for employers to make contact on a regular basis to check whether employees are suffering from aches, pains or discomfort relating to the use of their DSE equipment and workstation.

If working from home is to become permanent, employers must ensure that employees are provided with an appropriate workstation, chair and equipment. A full workstation assessment must be carried out and employees must be given advice on controlling risks associated with working from home.

Mental Health, Stress, Isolation and disrupted work-life balance
HSE describes stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

Working from home, away from colleagues and managers means that employees have significantly less support than they normally would. Not being able to see friends and colleagues, and not being able to have a natter about life in general has a significant effect on mental health.

It is important for employers to be considerate of employees’ changed circumstances – some employees who live alone may feel completely isolated; other employees may be suffering financial problems due to a family member being made redundant; some employees may be overwhelmed due to the requirement to work whilst looking after family members.

Whilst the advent of the school holidays might mean that parents are no longer required to balance home-schooling with work, the holidays are unlikely to reduce the stress and pressure placed on them by the pandemic. The new struggle for the next few weeks for parents is to balance working from home whilst entertaining bored children, as many who usually rely on grandparents to look after their children, may not be able to do so as many grandparents are particularly vulnerable.
With an HR hat on it is naive to think that interruptions to work will not have a negative affect on productivity and this should be part of your consideration as to whether working from home is a practical proposition on a permanent basis. 

Where it is, keep in regular contact with employees to check that they are coping with their work and home commitments, and to check in with them to ensure that they are not feeling isolated or stressed. Even employees who seem fine may simply be adept at putting on a brave face and hiding their internal struggles, so make sure all employees know that you are available to talk to.

Also ensure that employees are not battling with technology and remote access work systems, as this can significantly increase stress levels and be a huge time waster. Ensure good IT support for employees using computers and laptops at home.

Try to ensure colleagues maintain contact with each other. Social contact is important to prevent isolation. Use of technology such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime, or video-conferencing can be great for meetings, but it is also a great idea to schedule in lunch-time or breaktime catch-ups, so that employees can have a general chit-chat.

Returning to the workplace
Some employees may feel unsafe returning to work, so providing them with relevant information and advice on what you have done to make your workplace COVID-19 Secure is fundamental to ensuring employees feel comfortable and safe when the time comes for work from home to end.

Consultation with employees on matters that effect their health and safety is a legal requirement, therefore it is important that employers consult workers on changes to working conditions resulting from the COVID pandemic, such as the requirement to work from home or returning to work.

Provide information about:
  • The results of your COVID-19 risk assessment;
  • Your cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures;
  • The social distancing measures you have in place;
  • The measures you have put in place for times when 2m social distancing cannot be achieved.
As more food businesses are reopening and adapting to the Covid-19 controls and implementing your risk assessment findings don’t forget to keep this under review as the guidance can change. The current guidance was updated on 23rd July.

The key topic areas which must be included are:
  1. Thinking about risk
  2. Keeping your customers and visitors safe
  3. Who should go to work
  4. Social distancing for workers
  5. Cleaning the workplace
  6. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings
  7. Workforce management
  8. Inbound and outbound goods
Post Brexit food safety and standards
A number of celebrities, including Jamie Oliver have been putting pressure on the government to ensure that food standards and safety are maintained following our departure from the EU.
Concerns have been raised about allowing the import of foods from non-EU countries with different safety standards. In particular, the use of growth hormones for farmed animals and cleaning chemicals such as chlorine to wash raw poultry meat.
The government have not yet decided which, if any foods will be banned from importation into the UK. This issue will inevitably become very politicised and will draw more media attention.
The advice and comment in this update is not meant to be an authoritative statement of the law. The articles and summaries should not be applied to any specific set of facts and circumstances without seeking further advice. Whilst every care is taken to ensure that the content is correct Sentient cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of statements made nor the result of any actions taken by individuals after reading such.
49-51 Pegholme
Wharfebank Mills
Ilkley Road
LS21 3JP
03456 446006 
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