Should an Employer’s Duty of Care extend beyond the hours of 9-5?


Should an employers obligations extend beyond working hours?
Should an employers obligations extend beyond working hours?

All employers – from small start-ups to large organisations– have a duty of care for employees. Whether you’re employing one person or 250, you have a legal requirement to provide duty of care to your workers. Duty of care covers everything from  prevention of injury to stopping bullying and harassment . These measures are required by law.   But should an employers obligations extend beyond the 9-5?

What does duty of care currently look like?

An employer’s duty of care is already wide-ranging. Generally speaking, it covers a company’s legal and ethical duty to prevent physical and psychological harm to staff. That could be anything from an injury caused by a machine to stress from working excessive hours. If work negatively affects you or one of your employees’ wellbeing, that’s a duty of care issue.

As an employer, you must respect health and safety, employment and duty of care laws. Responsibilities include controlling risks of staff injury or poor health – that’s everything from stopping harassment to providing protective equipment.

To find out more about your obligations, check out the HSE website for further advice.

But what about beyond office hours?

When you consider that whilst leaving the office may mean an employee is not at risk of physical injury in the workplace- but could still suffer psychological or emotional damage – then considering the extent of an employers obligations become inherently more complex.

We are now working with a generation of employees who value a healthy balance between work and life and place a high value on their social life.

Work can still have a negative impact on emotional well-being if an employee is drained due to the challenges at work.  They wind up on the sofa numbing out – and their mental and physical health takes a battering.  It can also be challenging to maintain a healthy social life or relationships if an employee frequently works irregular hours or travels as part of their role.

Work becomes a source of resentment, rather than an important -and enjoyable – part of their life.

Why should it be an employers problem?

As an employer you may feel you are ticking all the boxes when it comes to maintaining a healthy place of work.  Maybe you are already offering flexible working, reward and recognition and clear feedback and support.

Maybe you feel that well-being outside the workplace is the employees responsibility.  After all we are all adults.  Adults shouldn’t need coddling outside the workplace.

If you want to know whether you are doing well – then just look at the bottom line.

How many days are you losing due to short-term absence?

If you are finding a high level of absence amongst your employees then you would not be alone. Government stats showed that, in 2015/6, a whopping 30.4 million working days were lost through work-related injury or illness – including stress.  Whilst you can discipline employees for high absence levels – if it is a widespread problem than this will only demotivate them further.  This leads us to consider what we can do beyond the 9-5.

Extending the duty of care is win-win

Interestingly, boosting employees emotional wellbeing inside-and outside – the workplace has tangible benefits.  Having a good social circle and enjoying a range of enjoyable activities can improve mental and emotional well-being and resilience.  You can read more about the  benefits here.

If you are worried about the cost- then consider the true cost of absenteeism.  It has been shown time and time again that companies who spend up to 1% of payroll on well being are 79% more likely to see better financial results.

But should it become an employers legal obligation?

We would say it only is a matter of time before looking after an employees well-being outside of work becomes a legal obligation.  The cost of absenteeism does not just fall on the employer – but the economy and benefits system overall.

The government is already increasing the obligations on employers as part of their good work plan.  It is safe to assume that this will extend further in time to include wellbeing inside and outside the workplace.

What are your views?