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What are the insurance implications of remote working?

16 Jun 2021

Liberty Insurance’s Stuart Trotter answers questions about remote working and what it means from an insurance point of view.

As Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD, said in the foreword of the National Remote Work Strategy, working as we knew it before “will never be the same again”.

Today’s professionals expect and deserve a strong work-life balance, flexibility and geographic mobility.

While remote working was seen as a temporary fix for many companies over the last year, this way of work has triggered a national conversation on the challenges and opportunities it brings for employers and employees alike.

It may affect how we interact with our cities, towns and rural communities and also how we invest in our physical and digital infrastructure, both in the traditional workplace and at home. It presents health and wellness considerations, and in recent months we have seen a greater focus on the tax implications for employers and employees.

But what are the insurance implications of enabling teleworking? As more and more companies move to offer this option to employees, there are a number of factors to consider from an insurance perspective.

I keep a work laptop at home. Is it insured?

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure all computer hardware is provided to an employee to enable remote working.

Typically, this will be covered under the business’s material damage section of its insurance policy.

That said, most home insurance policies that include contents cover will include cover for a limited amount of home office equipment, for example, a computer and printer.

However, there are some home insurance policies which may not give any cover for ‘office contents’ as they are not deemed to be ‘household goods’. If employers or employees are unsure on this point, we would encourage them to contact their insurer.

If an employer provides a remote working allowance for employees to purchase home office equipment, who is ultimately responsible for this?

When the allowance has been given to employees via payroll, typically the home office equipment they purchase is the responsibility of the employee as it is the employee, not the employer, that ultimately owns the equipment.

However, if the bursary has been provided through an expenses-claiming scheme, then technically it is the employer who is the owner.

Our business is seeking to move to a digital working model on a permanent basis. What insurance factors do we need to consider?

Over the last 14 months, many employees have borrowed workplace hardware, including laptops, monitors and office chairs, among other items, to facilitate their remote working. In many scenarios, this was done at short notice and in a very ad hoc manner.

Some commercial business policies allow for an element of cover for business equipment being temporarily removed from the office, however, typically the main purpose of business insurance is to cover company assets in a specific workplace.

Therefore, if the employer is moving to a remote working model, they will need to talk to their insurer and update their insurance policy accordingly.

Who is ultimately responsible for data security when employees are remote working?

Data security is a rapidly evolving space, which means there is no room for complacency on the part of employers or employees. It is imperative that employers update their security policies to reflect evolving teleworking practices and that these policies are regularly communicated to all employees.

Insurance products in this space are evolving all the time, with some insurers providing bespoke computer insurance cover, including ‘all risks basis’ cover that enables employers to insure for damage or interference to computer systems and loss of data, whether electronic or non-electronic.

If an employee has an accident while remote working, are there insurance implications for the employer?

All employers have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to ensure employees have a safe place to work, regardless of whether that is on-site or working remotely – for example, providing an ergonomic workspace.

If remote working is a relatively new development within an organisation, we would encourage employers to familiarise themselves with their employer liability policy to ensure they have the appropriate level of coverage.

Does an employer’s insurance cover employees hosting customer or client meetings in their home?

Remote workers hosting meetings at home would have implications for both employer and employees. For example, what happens if a customer or client visits an employee’s home in a professional capacity and has an accident? We would advise employees and employers alike to only have digital meetings at home and go to a co-working space or the office for meetings.

Most home insurance policies require the customer to specify that their home is not used in connection with their business or profession. Therefore, were an accident of this nature to occur, this would not be covered by their insurer.

It is important that employers proactively make their employees aware of these risks and discourage them from hosting customers or clients in their home without the prior approval of the employer.

If in doubt, check it out

Overall, remote working represents an exciting new opportunity for many employers and employees, offering greater flexibility to all parties.

However, many employers may have devised digital working policies at short notice and under pressure and, as a result, are playing catch up on some of the operational considerations thrown up by this new working model.

When it comes to insurance, our overarching message is always ‘if in doubt, check’ with your insurer.

By Stuart Trotter

Stuart Trotter is the Ireland country manager at Liberty Insurance.  

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