Workstation Assessments under COVID

The DSE/Workstation Assessment:

Legislation and guidance on managing Display Screen Equipment (DSE) and Workstation Assessments, like most guidance in 2020, has been ever changing under COVID-19.

“Work from home” instructions introduced during the lockdown back in March brought confusion towards undertaking assessments as this was considered a temporary measure which would not ordinarily constitute the requirement to undertake a formal assessment at the new workspace ie: the kitchen table!.     7 months on, and employers are faced with the choice of returning home workers back to the workspace OR keeping them home worked which is now considered a permanent measure meaning that, in either case, a DSE Assessment will need to be carried out.

So, it’s time to dust down the DSE Assessment forms and ensure that all workers are conducting those regular reviews.

What is DSE or Workstation equipment?

Any work equipment which is used continuously and needed to undertake desk activity is classed as Workstation equipment such as the chair, keyboard, mouse and screen. Items which are used infrequently such as staplers or pens are not usually included as part DSE Assessment

When should a DSE Assessment by carried and by whom?

Any employee who is required to sit for periods of more than one hour at a workstation to undertake their work should carry out regular assessments to ensure that the equipment being used, and how it is used, is safe and adequate. There are several triggers for undertaking or updating a DSE Assessment including:

  • When starting a new job – usually within the first few weeks once settled at the workstation.
  • Following a desk location change or new office layout
  • Following workstation equipment change
  • For pregnant workers – immediately then every trimester until maternity leave begins
  • Following return to work after a long period of absence or following time off through ill health or injury
  • Annually, if not triggered by any of the above

What does the Assessment look at?

A good DSE Assessment will ask a number of detailed questions relating to the equipment and how it is being used along with other aspects of the work environment such as noise levels and facilities. Any concerns should be identified from the assessment and passed to line management for addressing. The assessment should also aim to provide the opportunity for employees to raise any concerns they may have whilst using their workstation. Things considered include:

  • Condition and use of the equipment
  • Posture
  • Work routines
  • Understanding of adjustments

Where do I go for DSE Assessment support?

The HSE website has a range of support tools and advice to help you understand what is required of a DSE Assessment. The HSE guidance is reviewed and updated regularly in line with COVID-19 guidance so keep a close eye on changes to ensure your business remains compliant.

Grounded Safety (groundedsafety.co.uk) are offering a free DSE Assessment Tool to get you started. We are also producing regular blogs focussing on COVID updates to keep you and your business COVID Secure and on track with the latest guidance.

The Uber Case

The Supreme Court’s two-day hearing of the Uber BV and others v Aslam and others case took place week commencing 20 July 2020. It will be a landmark judgement in the field of employment law in relation to the definition of an employee, worker or self-employed contract. We can expect to hear the outcome in the next couple of months.

Why does it matter?

Employment status disputes are when an individual feels they are entitled to the same rights as if they were employed (or potentially vice versa). There are different categories of employment:

  • employees, who are entitled to a wide range of employment rights and benefits;
  • dependant workers, who are entitled to some, but not all, of those rights; and
  • third party contractors (self employed), who receive very little protection under employment legislation.

This is important for the Uber drivers, as if they are considered to be workers, they are entitled to many more rights (including paid leave, etc.) than if they are considered self employed.

The merits or otherwise of the gig-economy and zero-hours contracts have been debated widely over the last few years. There are benefits to some people of having flexible working but for some this is the only work they can obtain. More and more people are looking to work for companies like Uber, in a job market which could see a rise in unemployment of up to 13%, in a worst case scenario (Office for Budget Responsibility Fiscal sustainability report July 2020) .

The Supreme Court decision will be of vital importance to those who drive for Uber or work for other such similar companies, and for their employers…..

Recognising and respecting the rights of pregnant employees and those on maternity leave

Picture of a pregnant worker

Our in-house HR Consultant – Jo Brooks says that the recent award of just under £18k made by an employment tribunal to a former Liz Earle employee is a salient reminder to employers that care should be taken to recognise and respect the rights of pregnant employees and those on maternity leave. 

Jo would firstly like to remind us that we cannot possibly be aware of all of the contributing factors leading to this outcome and Liz Earle did admit to falling short of their usual high standards.

There is forthcoming law expected in October 2020 or April 2021 to protect expectant mothers from the point of announcing their pregnancy until up to six months after returning from work which will make the position clearer.

However, in the meantime, it is good practice to ensure that pregnant employees are afforded protection to ensure they are not unwittingly discriminated against, during a redundancy selection process.

HR Wise’s framework provides an affordable framework for small and medium-sized businesses to help them navigate challenging circumstances such as these.