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► Increase In Remote Work Likely A Lasting Effect Of COVID-19

Not so long ago, remote work arrangements were thought of as a nice perk for tech-proficient employees seeking an end to tiresome commutes and a way to enhance work/life balance. Then came the coronavirus and employer- and government-mandated measures aimed at slowing the spread of the disease it causes, COVID-19.

Employers not already accustomed to work-from-home employees had to get ready in a hurry, and they still may be tackling questions about how to maintain productivity and legal compliance. Also, while many workers are eager to head back to the office, others may want to continue working remotely, making it necessary for employers to explore the pros and cons of expanding remote work options permanently.

Read on to learn some of the issues you need to consider as you run your business with more remote workers.

Remote Work Policies

Employees need to understand management's expectations, so employer policies need to communicate them clearly. A remote work policy needs to outline which workers are allowed (or required) to telework and which ones will be required to be on-site. Take care to avoid discrimination when making those decisions.

Policies also need to cover issues such as what hours employees are expected to keep and what kind of communication is required. Communication systems, such as work phones and video conferencing capabilities, also need to be spelled out in the policy.

Employees need to know what equipment they will need, who will provide it, and the rules governing its use. For example, if employees take home a company laptop, they need to understand the security requirements. They also need to understand that the computer is for work and not an extra device for the household.

Also, make sure employees with company equipment understand how to keep access to the company's data and network secure while the device is being used remotely. If employees use personal computers and other equipment for work purposes, the policy should cover how to keep business data and communications secure.

In addition, the policy should outline the timetable for remote work. Is the arrangement temporary during the pandemic, or will workers be working remotely on a long-term or permanent basis?

Also, make sure the policy addresses how an employee's expenses will be covered. Spell out how things like an employee's use of data on a personal cell phone will work.

Consider the FLSA

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a key area to consider when putting people to work remotely, and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has a Q&A document that addresses telework during pandemic conditions. It reminds employers that you can require employees to work remotely as an infection-control strategy based on information from public health authorities.

The document also reminds employers that the FLSA requires you to maintain an accurate record of hours worked for employees even when they are working remotely. Also, nonexempt employees must be paid no less than the minimum wage for all hours worked and at least one and a half times the regular rate for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

The FLSA requires nonexempt covered employees to receive the required minimum wage and overtime pay "free and clear," meaning that when a covered employee is required to provide the equipment needed for telework, such as a computer or an Internet connection, the cost of providing that equipment may not reduce her pay below that required by the FLSA.

Some employees working from home because of the pandemic may not be able to perform all their usual work, but nonexempt employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for all hours they do work and at least one and one-half times their regular rate for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. Employees classified as exempt generally must receive their full salary in any week in which they perform any work.

Bottom Line

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many employers and employees to scramble, but legal compliance must be top of mind even when implementing quick, short-term practices.

[5/2020]

 

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