With many employers already having made the move to home-working and others set to do so, employers need to understand their obligations from a work health and safety perspective. Given employees could be required to work from home with little notice, generally speaking, this has not and may not allow for the usual comprehensive risk assessment of the home workplace to be conducted.
However, even when working from home is arranged on short notice, in response to the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, employers still owe obligations to employees, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the working environment is safe and without risks to health. An employee who suffers an injury while working from home could bring a workers' compensation claim, whether that be a physical injury (think RSI or tripping over a cable) or a psychological injury (arising out of say, isolation and anxiety).
In the current climate, there will be little ability in practical terms, to conduct the same level of assessment that you as an employer may ordinarily conduct before approving requests to work from home. Perhaps you are used to employees having to complete a fairly comprehensive working from home checklist including supplying photos of their home working set up. Given the unfolding situation, we suggest that employers, where possible: