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Rhian Greaves on the changing behaviour of health and safety regulators

Rhian Greaves, Legal Director at DAC Beachcroft, specialises in the defence of criminal regulatory actions, principally in the fields of health and safety and environmental law. 

She’s a panel member for our upcoming event, which aims to helps business owners grow out of the pandemic in a productive and healthy way. 

We caught up with Rhian recently to find out how her role has changed over the last eighteen months. 

We also wanted to know how the pandemic, alongside other catalysts for change, has impacted the behaviour of health and safety regulators. What do these shifting attitudes mean for businesses moving forward? Rhian Greaves reveals all in this exclusive Q&A.

How has your role changed in the last eighteen months?

“Things have changed massively for me, not least because I have started a new job. I joined DAC Beachcroft in May 2021 following an entirely remote recruitment process conducted from my kitchen table during breaks from homeschooling! 

“That change aside, as a health, safety and environmental lawyer things are rather different now. Pre-pandemic, I would often travel to client sites for accident investigations to prepare cases, interview witnesses or deliver training. I’d also often be in Court with office days in between. 

“In March 2020, that all stopped. I retreated to my (fortuitously) newly finished home office, panic bought a desk online and I’ve worked there ever since. Thankfully, the wonders of technology have allowed me to work productively and support our clients no matter where I’m based.”

How do you maintain a work-life balance post-pandemic? 

“DAC Beachcroft’s new Flex Forward scheme allows me to work in a way I could hardly have dreamed possible four or five years ago. It represents three types of dynamic, location-based working – office-focused, hybrid and fully flexible. It helps colleagues design a life that works for them. 

“As restrictions have eased, I’ve joined the army of hybrid workers. It gives me the flexibility to achieve my objectives at work while also sharing parental taxi duties with my husband and carving out a little time for myself. It has had a huge impact on my wellbeing, allowing me to achieve a better balance between home life and working.”

How else is DAC Beachcroft leading the way for employee wellbeing?

“The firm operates “a life that works” scheme – a brand used internally to reinforce DAC Beachcroft’s values. It’s also part of the external message supporting recruitment.  Indeed, shortly before my first interview, the firm won the Outstanding Employee Engagement Award at the People in Law Awards 2020.

“On joining the firm, I was immediately aware of how it had adapted to the challenges of remote working and employee welfare. My induction was organised and seamless. Plus, my colleagues were generous with their time over Teams to help me orientate my way around the organisation.  

“I now enjoy a range of carefully considered options to help me adapt to hybrid working, such as regular check-ins with colleagues and things like invites to remote pilates classes. There’s also structured support available via the employee assistance programme which is also extended to colleagues’ immediate families.”

How are health and safety regulatory expectations changing?

“An employer’s legal duty is to take all reasonable and practicable steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. Traditionally, the focus has been on physical safety. Indeed, that is where we have seen the overwhelming majority of prosecutions.  

“But employee mental health has become an increasing focus. This shift was occurring before the pandemic. To illustrate, in 2019 the HSE started to train Inspectors to investigate concerns such as work-related stress. I suspect we’ll see evidence of this in practice, perhaps in the new year. And I predict that the HSE will be focusing more and more on employee mental health as the larger scale return to workplaces picks up pace.”

How can businesses adapt to changing behaviours from regulators? 

“Organisations need to think about where their key risks are (bearing in mind they may have changed during or because of the pandemic) and who regulates those aspects of the business. 

“Then they need to look at how those agencies are operating, what their “hot topics” are and how they’re now communicating with businesses. We’re seeing increasing use of technology and email correspondence. Regulatory interventions are beginning to take different forms and feel less formal, which can encourage complacency on the part of the recipient. Being clear about who is getting in touch and why helps to guard against this.

 “We spend a lot of time devising bespoke training plans for clients around regulatory engagement – now is an ideal time to refresh education in this area.”

The countdown begins! 

It’s almost time for our upcoming event – Growing healthy businesses: Reconnecting and learning from a time of change.

For those attending, we can’t wait to see you there! If there’s anything you need to discuss prior, give us a call on 0161 486 5020.

Not attending? Don’t worry, you won’t miss out! We’ll be summarising the day, including key lessons from our brilliant panel of speakers, in an upcoming blog. Be the first to read it by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn

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