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Your questions answered - June 2022

04 July 2022

Each issue, British Safety Council will be using this page to answer YOUR questions. Please send any problems, issues or general enquiries about health, safety and wellbeing to policy@britsafe.org and their experts will respond in future issues.

Q: Are employees legally required to inform their employers when they are diagnosed with diabetes?

There is no legal obligation to tell your employer you have diabetes. However, there is a duty on all employers to ensure the health safety and welfare at work of their employees, so far as is reasonably practicable. In addition, employees have a duty to ensure their own health and safety, as well as of anyone else affected by what they do.

The Equality Act makes it unlawful for an employer to ask about your health before offering you work. But talking about your diabetes from the start can show that you're positive about your condition. Ideally, both your employer and you as an employee would recognise you both want the same thing – for you to be working safely – and will work together to achieve it.

Q: From a health and safety point of view, what’s an employer’s duty of care with home working in terms of ‘clocking in and out’. Some of our managers feel we need a system because of lone working but we want to give our employees more autonomy and flexibility to log in and out when suits them from home.

There is nothing definitive in health and safety law on this. An argument could be made that ‘clocking in and out’ might stop employees working excessive hours, but only if it’s managed properly. Otherwise, it would not necessarily solve the issue of lone working other than to show that someone is typing or navigating your system. 

On the autonomy point, many companies have introduced flexible working to accommodate childcare arrangements, but this can mean others who don’t have similar commitments can get messages and e-mails out of normal hours. Some countries, such as Belgium and Portugal have gone as far as to ban working out of hours. 

At British Safety Council we introduced a message at the bottom of our e-mails telling people we work flexibly but if the e-mail comes to you outside your normal working hours, we don’t expect an immediate reply.

Q. I’ve just moved into management of remote staff and I’m in a different part of the UK than they are. Can you suggest best ways to start working with somebody you haven’t physically met? 

Have a think first about all the friends you’ve made before, or work relationships you’ve established (or seen) and reflect upon how they started and what ‘ingredients’ enabled them to grow. People often think that they need to get straight into deep and meaningful conversation for a connection to happen, but this is rarely the case. More often than not we connect in the first instance with others we don’t know through idle chitchat and superficial conversation or activities. 

Light-hearted group activities, or even a quiz or questionnaire that involves people answering questions about themselves or each other can help. Talk about your favourite TV show, most embarrassing moment, childhood crush, worst job you’ve ever had etc. Everything else will take time but can be built on these foundations. You should also recognise that some people don’t feel comfortable making these connections, and be respectful of that. 

Q: I often get stressed in meetings, even when I’m with people I know well. What is the best way of me becoming less anxious and bothered by being ‘on the spot’ in meetings?

The best thing to do is to try and expand your ‘comfort zone’ so that you can function at your optimal level more of the time and in more situations. You can do this by gently challenging yourself to dip in and out of hyperarousal (fight or flight) and grow accustomed to, and less fearful of, the uncomfortable feelings that it creates.

It’s not about the amount of time spent feeling stressed, in fact spending too much time in a situation that we find particularly difficult can have the effect of reinforcing the fear. So, it needs to be managed to everyone’s needs. But on the whole, if you keep doing something you find stressful on a consistent basis, then the chances are your stress will decrease and your comfort zone will increase.

Don’t forget to submit YOUR questions to policy@britsafe.org