Warning to employers who leave employees "Home Alone" this Xmas

December 2014

As the countdown to the festive season gets underway, employers juggling the holiday requests are being reminded to check their policy for lone workers.

It comes after convenience store operator McColl was fined £150,000 for failing to protect its staff during a series of store robberies in Merseyside. The case was brought by Wirral Council, who argued that the company’s “failure to carry out risk assessments for shop staff exposed them to a risk of workplace violence”, as well as other health and safety breaches.

At the hearing, the court heard that shop staff had raised concerns about the lack of lockable doors into back room areas and the need for CCTV. In finding the company guilty of the charges, the judge emphasises that “The absence of proper and adequate risk assessments is where things started to go fundamentally wrong”.

Although there are no general restrictions on working alone, the starting point for any employer is Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which requires employers to take care of the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees, as far as reasonably practicable, together with Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which requires employers to assess the health and safety risks to which employees are exposed whilst at work. 

Lone working is subject to risk assessment, just like any other category or process, so lone workers are not placed in more risk by the nature of the role. Some types of business are more likely to be the target of criminals or other work-related violence.  Many retailers have abandoned their no lone working at night policies due to rising costs, but the more vulnerable the business, the more carefully you should consider the associated risks. 

It’s also worth remembering that, whilst this case involved Wirral Council bringing criminal proceedings that resulted in a fine, workers can equally consider bringing civil proceedings, if there is a clear case of negligence on the part of the employer resulting in loss or damage to the employee.

To avoid leaving lone workers feeling vulnerable, employers should : 

  • Consider/assess if the business is at risk from eg. Robbery; and report any incidents to monitor risk level
  • Provide some sort of personal safety or violence prevention training
  • Consider imposing recruitment requirements; doubling up at jobs or other job set ups  
  • Consider work equipment that could be used by a lone worker ; eg. Allow employees to have a Mobile phone on them; use of CCTV
  • Ensure employees know their surroundings and how to leave the building quickly.

It is vital to have a clear policy, and to make sure that everyone in the company knows, understands and implements it.

Please feel free to contact our Employment Solicitor, Albert Bargery on:

E:  albertb@pandcllp.co.uk

T:  01296 318508

Web site content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues