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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Working from home issues

13 May 2020

Many thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of Kiwis have discovered the pros and cons of working from home during the lockdown.

As with all things in life, there are benefits and downsides to remote working but some of those issues are perhaps not as obvious as you might think.

One of the issues worrying many employers is that of health and safety.

When you work in an office, the employer is responsible for ensuring that your workplace is a healthy and safe place. Indeed, if their negligence results in injury sickness or death there can be massive penalties levied against them by the courts.

But who is responsible for your health and safety if you're working at home?

Trip over a loose mat at work and your employer is in trouble. Trip over that frayed rug in the living room while working from home and then where does the burden of blame and responsibility fall?

Interestingly enough, if those giving advice to our local council in a streamed meeting I watched the other day are correct, the employer still has a duty of care even when people are working from home. It would seem that the employer may need to ensure that the work-environment is safe, even if that environment is the employee's own home-office, bedroom or corner of the living room.

The South Waikato District Council are now working on systems to ensure that home-workers' work areas are up to spec and thus a safe environment.

How's that going to work?

Will your employer have a right to inspect your home so as to make sure there are no frayed rugs, slippery floors, dodgy shelves or dangerously weak chairs in use?

How often will these inspections be undertaken, who will do them and at what cost?

Kerching!!!! I smell an opportunity here!

I reckon that a new market has just been created: the home-worker H&S verification service.

Anyone suitably experienced or qualified might make a damned good business out of providing "worksafe" verification services to employers that are hiring people to work from home.

For an annual stipend, such a service could conduct regular inspections of a home-worker's workspace and provide employers with verification that it was compliant with the necessary policies standards. They could also provide help in ensuring that non-compliant home-workspaces are brought up to standard.

Outsourcing this type of work is a much safer and more cost-effective option for medium to large enterprises who intent to continue with the remote working paradigm.

If remote working does grow in popularity I expect that it won't be long before ACC demands that home-workers meet a minimum standard for their workspaces and it will require that someone issues that certification -- ie: the "Home Worker H&S Verification Service".

There you go, I've identified a possible new market, now let's see if anyone scopes it and, if it's viable, launches such a service. I demand a 5% fee for coming up with the idea! (Cue Tui's ad).

As I spot the potential business opportunities arising from the CV19 situation, I'll continue to highlight them here - if anyone's interested.

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