Over the past decade or so there has been a huge surge in the amount of people who work some part of their week from a room in their house that is designated ‘the office’. They may work one day a week or indeed most days.
With the arrival of the Corona Virus, employers are now investigating all possible options to help prevent the spread of the virus among their workforce. Working from home is obviously a good possible option to help curtail the potential spread. We have been asked in recent weeks by many of our larger clients what implications the “working from home” option has on their insurance policies and if indeed their insurance policies will allow it.
In answering the question for the employer, it does not always mean that the employees questions are answered. Working from home can not only have implications for an employer’s insurance, but also have implications in relation to the employee’s own personal home insurance. Below, We have set out some comments in relation to implications for both.
For the Employer who has home workers or occasional working from home by an employee
When a business proposes for insurance, the insurer will ask for various details including the proposer’s contents values, the addresses the business operates from, if the business conducts work or operations away from premises. Initially, it will be likely that the business will not have any ‘home workers ‘employed and that all contents relate to them being located at the business premises.
If someone decides to introduce home working it will alter the risk from what was originally proposed to the Insurer, and therefore you need to update the insurers of the proposed changes. Not all insurers will react the same way when advised of the change so there is no definitive answer as to how an insurer will accommodate this change.
Factors that influence the Insurer’s decision
Under Liability Insurance, here are some factors that would influence the insurers decision:
1. Lack of supervision in the home environment and so potential lack of safety protocol and adherence to safety guidelines (eg manual handling & the like)
2. Home environment can be a more hazardous location potentially as employer will not be aware of any potential hazards in the home
3. Increased risk from visitors– Potential for visitors to come on the site of the home worker and an accident to occur – It increases the potential number of locations of the business from that proposed originally!
4. Unrelated accidents- Employees potentially having an accident at home which may not be actually work-related, but because employees “workplace” is the home a claim that would otherwise be not insured might make it through to being an employer’s liability claim.
5. Outdated Safety Practises- Employees not being in the workplace may be become unfamiliar with updated work place safety practices and potentially miss out on training and therefore lead to extra risk exposure or employees simply not adhering to basic health and safety when not supervised.
6. Official Home Work Policy- Has the employer a general health and safety policy and risk management around home working?
From a Property Perspective an insurer might look to know :
- What equipment is to be used in the home? Is the employer looking to cover this equipment at the home location?
- If values of equipment are high it may have security requirements attaching to insuring this at the new (home) location.
Obviously working from home has GDPR implications and so also has a knock-on effect as far as compliance goes, with any liability issuers that may follow.
In short, Insurers view “home working” as a material fact and a matter which must be disclosed and if you want to ensure your policy cover responds in the event of a claim – You’ll need to be sure you have advised your insurers and got their agreement to provide the covers to you.
Insurance implications for the Home Worker themselves
Lots of home insurance policies are designed for the house being used purely for domestic use with no business usage whatsoever. You need to be careful that, if you are operating an office from your home, you have advised your insurers.
The insurer may not cover you, for example, if you had a caller to your house, visiting you in relation to your business – A caller slips, trips, falls and sues you. The insurer may rely on the fact that you said the house was not used in connection with any business or profession and therefore they deny the claim under the policy citing “non-Disclosure and increased risk“.
If you have office equipment then your home policy may & may not give some cover for this. Some policies give a small amount within their definition of contents insurance to allow for, for example, a computer & printer but other policies may not give any cover for ‘office contents ‘ as they are not deemed to be ‘household goods’.
Our message is that for both an Employer or an Employee that is proposing to go down the route of “Home Working“, whether temporarily because of the Corona Virus spread or as a business model – It is imperative that you check with your insurers in all instances to see that you will have the cover you expect when or if you are unlucky enough to have a claim.
We hope this has answered your questions on home working. However, If you have any questions, please call our office in Galway on 091 – 563518 or contact us via our live chat on our website.