Duty of Care Has Become a Social Obligation
The past year has inundated enterprises of all kinds with concerns about health and safety, and while companies have always had to consider their duty of care to employees it has become an increasingly public matter. Large corporations, namely Google and Amazon, paved the way in being the first to require employees to work from home in response to the pandemic. This put pressure on smaller companies to follow suit.
The result being that duty of care has morphed from a pure legal obligation to a much more socially driven obligation. Employees have expectations that their companies will perform in moralistic ways. As we reflect on the past year, a common question among virtual happy hours has been, “How did your company handle Covid?”
The media has also stepped in, spotlighting companies based on their response to emergency situations. Companies are being publicly applauded for having effective emergency plans in place that keep not only their business, but their people safe.
With increasing pressures for businesses to provide a duty of care, it is important the right questions are being asked. Namely, what does duty of care mean for your company?
What Does Duty of Care Mean?
According to Merriam-Webster, “duty of care” is an organization’s duty to use due care toward others in order to protect them from unnecessary harm. This can include many facets of protection from both physical and psychological harm.
A simple example provided by the New York City Bar (LRS) explains a situation in which a person is playing catch, and their ball goes over the fence into someone else’s property that has a gate reading, “Do not enter.” If the person enters that gate and cuts themselves on a broken bottle, the owner is likely not responsible. However, if the person knocks on the gate and the owner invites him or her onto their property, the owner assumes a responsibility to ensure the person who enters does not harm themselves on the broken bottle on the ground.
However, the line in which a corporation must provide duty of care has become increasingly blurred with the rise in remote work. When the “do not enter” sign seems to be a moving target, how do you know when duty of care applies?
With company-issued mobile devices and the fact that modern employees are constantly tethered to work, a business’ duty of care reaches far beyond the physical office and traditional 9-5 hours. Mobility and flexibility in the workplace necessitate a thorough exploration into what fulfills the company’s duty of care to their modern worker. Chief among these is an employee’s access to emergency services, regardless of where or when they may be working.
Where Does 9-1-1 Fit into Your Duty of Care?
What happens when one of your employees experiences an emergency and dials 9-1-1 using a phone connected to your company network? It does not matter if that person is dialing from the 16th floor of a high-rise behind a closed office door, their home office, or the Starbucks down the street. That employee needs to receive help in the most efficient and effective manner regardless of where they dial 9-1-1, and it is the company’s responsibility to ensure this is possible.
In addition to the mounting social expectation to have emergency plans in place, don't forget that it is also the law. Both Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act were recently enacted into legislation, and both have deadlines that have already passed. These affect all businesses in the United States. The good news is that being 100% compliant not only puts your company in good legal standing, but also fulfills a major duty of care to employees by providing them complete E911 coverage in a dispersed work environment.
When thinking about fulfilling your organization's duty of care, remember that E911 is a necessary component of keeping your people safe and your business compliant.
If you have any questions about duty of care, compliance with federal legislation, or E911 for your enterprise please reach out. We are here to help!