Duty of Care: What Is It and What Does It Mean For Organisations?

Two caring hands together

If you’re an employer, you’re like to be familiar with the concept of Duty of Care. And while it’s pretty obvious at face value what it entails (welfare, support, and good practice), it’s essential for companies to fully understand their responsibilities, for practical, legal and employee engagement purposes.  


Here we explore what the Duty of Care umbrella covers, and what it might mean for your organisation. 


What Is Duty Of Care?

 

The HSE sets out an employers responsibility on duty of care:


 “It is an employer's duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this. 


This means making sure that workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace."


Because the ‘risks’ of employment will vary from industry to industry, this makes it difficult for some companies to know exactly where their legal responsibilities lie. But failing to understand exactly where responsibilities start and end can have serious implications for an organisation. Everything from toxic work cultures to hefty negligence claims can arise from simple mistakes or failure to act responsibly, so it’s crucial that employers are clear on their Duty of Care obligations. 


How Do Employers Know What Their Duty of Care is? 

When it comes to the welfare of employees and employee engagement, legislation should be the minimum standards, not the aim. However it helps to understand the legislation as a starting point. All the standard measures in place are outlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1992. This covers things like:

  • Creating a clear Duty of Care policy, when a company has 5 or more employees
  • Training relevant individuals on basic health and safety issues
  • Frequently updating training and health and safety guides
  • Managing and recording misconduct
  • Displaying certification
  • Keeping training records up to date
  • Giving employees the right tools to fulfill their responsibilities


But it isn’t just physical safety that employers need to look after, they also have a Duty of Care to support their workers’ mental health too. 

Many organisations are now going well beyond the minimum duties and creating a culture based around employee wellbeing, supporting both physical and mental health. This employee-first approach can reap the rewards of high engagement and a positive work culture; reduce absence from work, save on recruitment costs, and encourage a more productive team. 


How To Look After Your Team’s Mental Health

According to HSE, as much as 40% of all work-related sickness in the UK is caused by stress. This stands witness to the equal importance of both mental and physical welfare in the workplace. 

If you’re an employer, you know that time off leads to decreased profits and productivity. And decreased profits adds stress on other team members who pick up the extra workload to meet targets. The cycle repeats and the stress can spread across the team and even the entire organisation. To put it simply, your efforts as an employer should focus more strongly on preventing stress than curing it. 

Here are some of our top tips for looking after your team’s mental health & moving towards a “wellbeing” approach:


Encourage Anonymous Employee Feedback


If your employees are stressed, it’s likely that at the heart of the issue is a lack of support from their manager or leader. Once this cycle has begun, it can also mean that they’re less likely to share their feelings and concerns with the same leader or manager. Eventually, left unresolved, team members may crack.  

For this reason, employee feedback can be a company’s greatest resource, but only if it’s anonymous – aka, honest – and actioned. Anonymous employee engagement surveys will give you real-time insights into the state of your workforce’s mental health, and offer suggestions about what could be improved.

Good data and insight can be predictive of issues that are forming, or help to uncover solutions to problems that have already surfaced. 

By collaborating with a company like Space HR, you can distribute expert-made employee engagement surveys via Whatsapp – surveys that have been specifically tailored to your organisation. The more you know about how your employees feel, the better able you are to fulfil your Duty of Care. 


Ensure Your Leaders Have Received the Correct Training

Often employees are dissatisfied or stressed at work due to a breakdown in communication with leaders. Whether they feel generally unsupported, feel bullied, discriminated against, or placed under too much pressure to meet deadlines, leadership plays a massive role in your team’s mental health. 

Your anonymous employee engagement surveys, will provide you with critical insights into the general perception of your management teams. You can use the feedback to identify gaps in duty of care, teach them the best practices of leadership, and encourage them to lead by example. Doing so will breed a positive workplace culture, and will make recruitment and regulation much easier going forward. 

You may also want to invest in specialist support and training in this area. Managers and leaders armed with knowledge and confidence of how to support their teams and truly fulfil their duty of care, will have better outcomes than those who are under-invested in. 


Treat Your Duty of Care Policy as a Basic Standard, Not the Gold Standard

Your Duty of Care policy is the bare minimum you can do to keep your company out of court, but it doesn’t automatically build employee engagement. To truly look after your employees’ physical and mental health, you must put other measures in place to show them you care, along with checking back regularly and often to ensure that it’s working.

The tips we’ve listed here are ways of taking care of your workers and improving workplace engagement. For more information about how Space HR could help you create a thriving work culture to go above and beyond your Duty of Care, get in touch

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