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What Is Duty Of Care In The Workplace

Duty Of Care Definition

A company’s duty of care is to safeguard its employees from unreasonable dangers. Employers have a duty of care to their workers which means that they should do everything in their power to improve their workers’ health, safety, and well-being. When an employee travels for work, the employer has a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the employee does not suffer any psychological or physical harm.

The Importance of a Duty of Care Program

From a legal perspective, the employer is required to fulfill these responsibilities in relation to claims of negligence and personal injury. If an employer fails to take all reasonable precautions to protect their employees from harm, they may be held liable for breaching their duty of care. Not only is it ethical and legal to offer employees a duty of care program, but it is also a good business practice. It can be beneficial for employee morale, productivity, and retention to know that your employer is on your side.

An event in a distant country can have long-lasting effects across the globe and, more importantly, your organization in today’s world. Disease, crime, natural disasters, and terrorism do not discriminate. Essentially, an organization’s legitimate and honest convictions stretch out to representatives that work or travel abroad. Even though there is a duty of care in case law, there are no laws or regulations that say exactly what employers must do to show that they have taken reasonable precautions to protect their workers’ health and safety. The following question follows: In order to fulfill their duty of care in the workplace, what actions should employers take? To tell you the truth, the answer is that it varies.

Breach of duty of care

How does a breach of duty of care occur?

When a person or organization fails to provide the necessary level of care in a given circumstance, resulting in harm to another person, this is known as a breach of duty of care.

The following factors will be taken into account by the courts when reviewing a breach of duty of care legal case:

  • Is it possible that the defendant could have anticipated the plaintiff’s potential for harm and prevented it from occurring?
  • Were there any alterations or alternatives that could have been made to avoid the harm?
  • Would the defendant have considered these safer alternatives?

The defendant has breached their duty of care if the court finds that the defendant’s actions did not meet the required standard of care.

Duty of care legislation

What Regulations Influence Obligation of Care?

Depending on the kind of business or service in question, laws can have an impact on the concept of duty of care. A pharmacist’s duty of care, for instance, is quite distinct from that of a tax preparer.

The laws that govern duty of care may also differ depending on where the business or service is located. Many of the federal laws governing duty of care in the United States are set by the Department of Labor. A few examples include:

  • Employees who are eligible can take unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 12 weeks for specific medical and family reasons under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). During the leave, coverage for group health insurance will not change.
  • Minimum wage, recordkeeping, overtime pay, and youth employment are all governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
  • Through workplace inspections and investigations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act enforces safety and health regulations. Other state-specific duty of care laws are enacted at the state level.
  • Banks, credit card companies, and other lenders can not hurt consumers, thanks to the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA).

Many important laws establishing the duty of care in the United States are governed by individual states, and these laws vary from state to state.

Examples of Your Duty of Care

Remote Workers

Your duty of care extends beyond the confines of your office or facility. According to the 2022 State of Employee Safety Report, 82% of employees have the right to believe that those who work from home or remotely are subject to their employer’s duty of care.

How, then? Your duty to protect your employees becomes more difficult when they clock in from their living rooms or even travel to work in a different city, as some nomadic workers do.

It is possible to take the same safety measures for remote workers as you would for employees working in an office such as providing safety training, making home offices more ergonomic, and being clear about safety hazards. However, you will require a customized approach to emergency preparedness when it comes to external risks like natural disasters or other risks specific to your location.

Because evacuating from a home can be more challenging than evacuating from an office, GitHub, for instance, instructs its remote employees to prepare a “Go Bag” in preparation for a wildfire evacuation. They also provide guides and resources on how to stay safe during protests and demonstrations, disease outbreaks like the COVID-19 pandemic, and even how to use VPNs to protect your internet connection and your privacy online.

Business travel

Your traveling employees, like remote workers, have the right to a safe working environment wherever they are.

Imagine that an employee is going to a crucial meeting in another country. They are under the care of your organization from the time they start their journey to when they get off the plane and return home—after all, the trip is only for work.

So, what does duty of care for business travel look like? In a perfect world, it would look like this:

  • Ensuring a safe mode of travel and a place to stay while away
  • Regularly checking in with your employee

There are some risks while traveling that you can anticipate such as ongoing geopolitical threats or weather, but there are also dangers such as car accidents and active shooter violence, that can strike without warning. You should track nearby threats and communicate proactively to alert your distant employees and provide any guidance and resources. You can stay aware of what is going on wherever your traveling employees are by investing in technology that provides location-based safety alerts or a solution that is comparable. You will be able to protect them even when they are far from home or the office this way.

Extreme weather conditions

In the past few years, the frequency and severity of extreme weather have both increased in every region of the world. Climate change will also ensure that this trend continues. To fulfill your general duty of care for severe weather, you must monitor the weather around your employees and communicate safety procedures in the event of an emergency.

Ron Derrick, Corporate Senior Crisis Chief of the Whataburger War room, uses AlertMedia’s incorporated danger insight and crisis correspondence frameworks to get continuous data on dangers like serious climate that influence any of the 900 Whataburger café areas that length 14 states.

For instance, a number of dangerous tornadoes posed a threat to several Texas locations. Derrick and his team quickly informed employees in the path of the tornadoes to seek shelter after receiving numerous alerts from AlertMedia. Derrick explains that with very little involvement from the Command Center team, the platform notified employees in danger with the help of AlertMedia’s dynamic group functionality. They were able to deploy the tornado warning communications to those in affected areas much more quickly than they could have done by hand because they were automated.

By performing risk assessments in advance to narrow down the kinds of weather events that are likely to occur in your area, you can protect your employees during periods of extreme weather. You will be able to prioritize threats and move forward with preparedness efforts with that information.

Also, location-based weather alerts can expedite the delivery of life-saving notifications to employees and streamline your operations.

Mental well-being

Mental well-being is an aspect of workplace safety that is far too often overlooked. Physical safety as a whole—guardrails, fire drills, and personal protective equipment—is only one part of the equation. You must also create a psychologically safe work environment in order to provide reasonable care for your employees. Keep in mind that different people have different ideas of what constitutes a psychologically safe environment. To ensure that your leadership team understands what well-being means for your employees, it is essential to be receptive, solicit feedback, and keep the conversations going.

Learn about the scientific study of the relationship between people and their jobs to help improve your employees’ psychological safety and mental health, as well as your business’s reputation and bottom line’ the science behind psychologically safe workplaces.

For instance, if an employee works excessively long hours, appears to be overwhelmed or upset in meetings, and exhibits more tense and irritable behavior. This employee may not be in a psychologically secure location. As the employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that this employee has access to mental health-promoting resources, is supported, and has opportunities to express their needs.

You have the option of doing the following:

  • Include employee assistance programs (EAPs) in your benefits packages
  • Train managers on how to identify and support employees who are struggling with mental health
  • Place an emphasis on mental health in day-to-day operations
  • Encourage employees to take breaks and use PTO or sick time
  • Educate employees about what their health insurance covers for mental health

There are also significant financial implications at stake because businesses spend an average of $15,000 annually for employees who are struggling with mental health issues (pre-COVID), and employees who are ill miss more time

Your other safety efforts will benefit from promoting your employees’ holistic well-being. Employees will be more likely to make safe choices and follow safety procedures if they are psychologically supported. As a whole, your workplace will be safer.

Employees with disabilities

When OSHA says that you must provide a safe workplace for every employee, they mean every employee, even those with disabilities. Despite the fact that many of the ADA’s requirements cover accommodations, you must create an environment that meets the disability requirements of your employees in order to fulfill your duty of care.

For instance, you should make sure that there are elevators and ramps that are appropriate for employees who use wheelchairs and are mobility impaired. In the event of an emergency that necessitates evacuation, you should also ensure that you are planning for the particular requirements of that employee.

The following are some ways you can help disabled employees:

The last thing you want is an OSHA violation and a legal case, so make sure to provide a reasonable standard of care for your employees who may require adapted spaces or procedures that are fit for their specific needs.

Avoid discriminatory policies or practices that could result in legal action.

Provide an avenue for employees to voice any concerns or areas for improvement.

Ask your employees directly what could improve their experience and safety (both mental and physical).

Regularly check in with all of your employees, considering that some may not have disclosed an unseen disability.

One of many industries with specific duty of care requirements is healthcare. Employees, contractors, patients, and visitors are all covered by duty of care laws in hospitals, elderly care centers, and other healthcare facilities. Additionally, distinct considerations are needed for each of these groups.

By imposing stringent standards on the quality of care they receive, for instance, patients should be shielded from medical malpractice and other forms of personal injury. However, staffing ratio guidelines would be beneficial to employees.


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