What Employers Need to Know When Adapting to Work From Home
Updated: May 4, 2020
With the ongoing pandemic, most employers whose businesses can still operate have allowed their employees to work from home (“WFH”). Moving to this type of work environment leads to a lot of changes and potential issues that employers need to be aware of in order to conduct business as seamlessly as possible. The easiest way for your employees to know your expectations when working from home is to provide them with a WFH policy. There are a number of concerns you should address in such a policy. Here are a few examples:
Wage & Hours Laws: Because wage & hours laws still apply, employers must pay for any overtime even when employees are working from home. Employers are now tasked with finding a way to ensure employees are accurately tracking their WFH hours without any supervision. In this policy, an employer would need to express his/her expectations of employees by providing guidance on what are considered unpaid breaks and what are not, along with the correct way to account for hours worked while at home. There are many processes that track hours by having employees log-in and log-out at the appropriate times. It would be helpful to adopt or reiterate a written policy prohibiting unauthorized overtime and requiring employees to record all hours contemporaneously. Regardless of the policy and process that an employer chooses to have, trust between employers and employees during this time is essential for your business to run smoothly.
Safe & Secure Work Environment: The requirement for an employer to provide a safe and secure work environment extends even when employees are working from home. Because it is not reasonable or required for an employer to inspect each home of their employees, it is important to include a policy describing and reiterating the safety requirements instead. An employer should also clearly convey that any injuries during work time at home should be reported to the company so that it can file a claim with the company’s workers’ compensation carrier.
Reimbursements: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires all employers to reimburse their employees for any business related expenses that would bring their pay below the minimum wage. During this time, employees may be purchasing equipment needed in order to work from home. An employer should be careful to note these expenses. If these expenses, incurred as a result of working from home, would bring an employee’s pay below the minimum wage, the FLSA requires reimbursement. However, if it does not, an employer should highly consider reimbursing their employees anyway in order to maintain employee morale and satisfaction. An employer choosing to reimburse their employees should advise them that any equipment or service charges (e.g. internet) would need to be approved by a supervisor in order to avoid an influx of expenses at this time.
Cybersecurity & Confidentiality: With working from home comes growing concerns with cybersecurity and confidentiality. For example, an employee might mistakenly leave his or her computer open on the kitchen table where a family member might see confidential information It is important to explain to employees that they need to take heightened security precautions such as ensuring their computers are closed when unattended and that they are also password protected. Further, it is important to consider certain antivirus software and require your employees to download your chosen software on their at home devices.
Other than these major concerns, an employer would benefit by providing training to employees for the new technology or programs needed at home (e.g. Zoom). It is also important to ensure that employees have the right credentials to such programs to work as efficiently as possible. Remember, no employer is perfect. It may take a few tries to find the right programs and processes that work best for you and your employees when transitioning to work from home. The important thing is that your workers have the guidance and support needed and know all your expectations during this trying time.