Is an employer under an obligation to conduct a risk assessment where an employee will temporarily be working from home?
Yes, an employer must assess the health and safety risks to an employee who is working from home, even where this is on a temporary basis.
Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3242) requires employers to conduct a "suitable and sufficient assessment" of the health and safety risks to which their employees are exposed while at work. Depending on the nature of the work, if an employee is working at home on a temporary or infrequent basis only, it is likely to be "suitable and sufficient" for the employee to carry out the assessment themselves.
The employer should provide guidance on the potential risks that the employee should look for and instruction on how to carry out the assessment. It should ensure that apppropriate steps are taken if any risk is identified. For example, where an employee would usually use an ergonomic chair, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that employers "encourage workers to try other ways of creating a comfortable working environment (eg supporting cushions)", while they are temporarily working from home.