Every work day more than 34 million workers slip into their home office chairs and human resource staff scramble to reconcile Telecommuting and Employment Law.
The concept originated in the 1970s when advances in technology made it possible and it has grown. Telecommuting saves companies money on office space and saves money the employee spends on travel. It also helps them balance their home lives and work, to increase employee satisfaction.
Still, there are several laws that affect the workplace and that human resource staffers must somehow relate to home workers. To begin with, telecommuting works with the right people: employees who have proven themselves to be productive and reliable.
Telecommuting and Overtime
One of the biggest issues with telecommuting employees is accounting for their work hours and overtime pay. The website “HR Hero” talks about the difficulties in monitoring employees who work from home or from the field. There must be a way to easily record work hours. Of course, one simple method would be to only allow employees who are exempt from overtime compensation to telecommute. Other means of determining how many hours an employee has worked include requiring them to “check in” from their home computers, sending emails to which they must respond in a timely manner and scheduling teleconferences and online meetings.
With the availability of technology, there are also ways of “clocking in and out” digitally. An accurate accounting of employee work hours is critical to avoid excess overtime hours and to stay in compliance with the law.
The Safe Workplace Law and Telecommuting
Although employers must respect the privacy of employees, they must also protect themselves from legal ramifications of an employee who is injured while working at home. “The website ACM Law Journal Newsletters” suggests that employees who telecommute from home must designate a clearly defined area in their homes as a workplace and all work should be done there.
In addition, employers must reserve the right to do an on-site inspection to determine if the area meets OSHA stipulations. Telecommuting workers are subject to the same policies and responsibilities and office workers but they also have the same rights and one of those rights is workman’s compensation. Human resource workers must find a way to reconcile the privacy of those who work from remote locations while safeguarding their place of business.
Written Contracts of Telecommuting
In an effort to address the issues of legal compliance while still allowing workers to telecommute, some sources suggest that a written contract should be established between the employer and the employee spelling out the responsibilities and rights of each. Since the telecommuters are still subject to all workplace policies, mush of that is covered by regular procedures. A set period of work must be established, however, and so should a way of documenting those hours.
Employees who work away from the office should also give a phone number where they may be reaches at all times during their work hours. In some cases where employees must attend online meetings, the office dress code should apply. These and other considerations should be worked out by the human resources department before the contract is written.
As new technology emerges that enables workers to access files and view work sites remotely, the number of people who telecommute will rise. Human resource departments must develop practices and policies to deal with this change and to ensure that the workplace is in compliance with regulations. That is the correlation between Telecommuting and Employment Law: policies and regulations must apply to all workers no matter where they work.