Liability risks of remote working yet to truly emerge

Businesses and their insurers are facing a new wave of liability risks as the world moves to a new way of working.

In the week that the UK began a widescale pilot for a four day a week working scheme, recent studies have found that ever more workers now believe there is no need to head into the workplace preferring to work remotely.

The move to home working brings with it new risks according to one expert who said that it will take time for businesses and insurers to see any emerging liability trends as the new normal beds in.

Simon Hiscock, client director – liability claims services at Sedgwick speaking at the AIRMIC conference in Liverpool told Emerging Risks, the market is facing news threats and risk managers and underwriters will need to be aware of emerging trends.

“We are still very early into the move to remote working,” he explained. “Companies will need to create new strategies to understand the risks that remote working can create. These may include spinal issues due to poor posture working at home and also mental health.”

The impact of the pandemic is still being felt. “We saw a significant drop in claims during the pandemic,” he added. “Claims were 60% lower than pre-pandemic levels as people simply were not out and attending, he workplace.

“Currently the levels are still around 20% lower and it is likely they will not return to pre-pandemic levels for some time if at all.”

Hiscock warned that there were new risks that the industry needed to be aware of.

“There is a concern around the court action in the United States over what are deemed to be forever chemical,” he explained. “The US has seen a number of cases and there is a concern that class actions are being prepared in Europe over the use of these chemicals, and it needs to be monitored.”

He added whilst claims are down the industry needed to be alive to attempts by “claims farmer” firms and legal firms to look to new areas of liability.

“The claims farmers have a business model, and they are constantly looking for a new opportunity to make money,” said Hiscock. “The industry is always facing the challenge to address liability issues and when one is seemingly solved, they will look to create a new risk.

“We saw this with the travel sickness claims where we had travellers claiming they had caught a stomach bug on holiday. The Government was forced to step in and while genuine claims are still met it has eradicated many of the false claims we were seeing.”

Hiscock said while the industry had braced itself for a wave of claims around COVID from staff who would claim they were seriously ill with the virus having contracted it in the workplace those claims had not materialised.

“We have not seen a level of claims that many feared,” he said. “The difficulty of proving causation – that the virus was contracted at work – had been a major factor. However, I am working in a case where a prisoner caught COVID, and it is difficult for the prison services to say he caught it elsewhere!”

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