For any employers reading this article, know that you have a duty of care to your employees. It is both a moral and legal obligation, and if you are found to be in breach of this, your employees do have the right to take you to court.
But what does duty of care mean? It is a phrase often used in legal documents and business policies, but it needs to be defined, so you have a fuller understanding. You can then do something within your position to stop you from breaching it in any way.
ACAS define it as taking reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of your employees are met. This includes adhering to health and safety policies, protecting staff from discrimination and bullying, and providing adequate training for any job where an accident or injury could take place. If you fail in any way, you could be open to personal injury and negligence claims.
The onus is on you to make sure your employees are well cared for, therefore. As busy as you are, and as hardworking as you want your employees to be, you need to have their best interests at heart.
So, ask yourself these questions.
Is your workplace safe? You need to risk assess every area of your business. If there is the possibility of harm to your employees, you need to invest in workplace safety to protect them. This includes using the relevant signage in dangerous areas, such as places where chemicals are used, and providing the correct safety equipment in line with your business. You should pay for repairs in any area of your business that is unsafe. And you should check fire alarms to ensure they are fully operational, perhaps using this fire alarm maintenance guide as guidance. The safer your workplace is, the safer your employees will be, so regularly commit to checks to show your duty of care.
Do you have an open door policy? To show your employees you care, you need to be available to listen to their needs and problems. If they come to you with stories of bullying and discrimination, you need to take them seriously. You need to speak to any guilty party and take the relevant steps to stamp out any negative behaviour. You should also provide the correct training, so all employees know what constitutes bullying and discriminatory behaviour, as well as outlining definitions with your policies.
Are your employees overworked? Your employees need to work to clearly defined job roles and reasonable shift patterns. If you give them more than they can handle, your employee’s productivity and morale will suffer. This isn’t good for them, and it is isn’t good for your business, so you need to conform to good practice. If you impose too much on them, and their health suffers as a consequence, you might find yourself facing a legal claim against you. Therefore, be reasonable in your expectations of your employees. Schedule break times during the day. And provide an area where they can rest and relax during these break times, to better care for their physical and mental wellbeing.
Your employees and your business will suffer if you don’t show a duty of care to your employees, so take the necessary steps to protect them from harm. In doing so, you will raise their morale and improve their productivity, while protecting yourself from gossip or legal claims that purport to your wrongdoing.
Thanks for reading.