Real Estate

All About The Insurance and Legal Issues With Office Moves

When you move office, there are certain issues you should be aware of relating to your employee liability insurance and the law.

In what follows, please remember this is not qualified legal advice. Things may vary significantly depending upon the legal jurisdiction you are operating within at national or local state level.

The use of employees as removals labour

Broadly speaking, the contract of employment between your organisation and your employees will typically define what may be described as the ‘legitimate duties’ associated with their role.

What this means is that you have no right to require them to do anything significantly outside of those definitions.

It’s worth noting here that even if they do so willingly, you may well be legally exposed if you are asking them to engage in, for example, manual labour to support an office move.

There are two consequences of this for the typical employer. The first is that you cannot cajole your employees into acting as casual labour – even subtly. The second is that even if they do assist, whether willingly or under pressure, you may also have put at risk aspects of your employee liability insurance.

A scenario

To give an illustration of the complexity of the legal and insurance issues here, take a hopefully hypothetical scenario in which one of your employees is injured.

Somebody who falls in the office when in pursuit of their defined normal duties will typically be covered by your employee liability insurance and legal definitions of what constitutes a legitimate employer demand. That’s providing you have met all workplace health and safety laws.

However, that same person falling while they are trying to pack items into a removals company’s boxes or while they are carrying things out to a removals vehicle, might constitute an entirely different situation. Given that the packing and removal of items into a waiting vehicle would hardly be considered to be part of their “normal duties”, you may find that your insurance cover is not valid and that you might also be in breach of employment and health and safety laws.

The solution

Many employers ask, directly and indirectly, their employees to assist in the packing up and sometimes carrying of office equipment in support of a planned move.

Employers usually do so for one of two reasons:

• They are trying to cut costs and avoid paying for specialist packers

• They wish to try and ensure that the packing is done correctly and with due consideration for the items concerned.

Neither of these is valid nor would they typically constitute an acceptable position under law.

The first motivator should never be a deciding factor and the second can be easily achieved if you select a professional office removals company and ask them to provide specialist packing services.

It would be highly advisable for all employers to take this matter seriously and to avoid slipping into casual assumptions about just what can be expected of employees by way of packing and labour in support of an office move.