The number of companies allowing employees to work remotely has grown exponentially in recent years. And it’s easy to see why. With advances in technology, employees no longer need to be tied to a physical office to do their jobs effectively. The pandemic also prompted a mass shift to remote work, with employees and employers scrambling to adjust to the new reality.
However, while working from home comes with several benefits, employers must be aware of a few potential legal pitfalls. Here are some legal issues to avoid when managing your remote workforce.
1. Not Having a Written Policy in Place
The first step to avoiding legal trouble is to have a written remote work policy that outlines the expectations and rules for remote employees. This policy should cover work hours, availability during work hours, communication expectations, and more. Without a written policy, you leave yourself open to potential disputes.
A good remote work policy will establish clear boundaries and expectations for employees, which can help prevent misunderstandings and disputes. For example, your policy should state whether you expect employees to be available during regular business hours or if they have more flexibility. You should also include expectations for communication, such as how often employees should check in with their supervisors.
2. Not Monitoring Employee Activity
When employees are working remotely, it can be tempting to just set them loose and trust that they’re getting the job done. However, it’s important to monitor employee activity to ensure they’re staying on task and not slacking off. Several tools can help with this, such as time-tracking software or project management platforms like Asana or Trello.
You can also use a remote access tool like TeamViewer to remotely access an employee’s computer to see what they’re working on. If the software is installed on an employee’s work computer, you can log in and view their screen anytime. There are also other TeamViewer alternatives that offer similar functionality. But privacy is important, so be sure to get an employee’s permission before monitoring their activity.
3. Failing to Stay Up-to-Date on Labor Laws
Just because your employees work remotely doesn’t mean you’re exempt from complying with labor laws. Suppose you have remote employees spread out across different states or countries. In that case, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the labor laws in each jurisdiction so that you’re not inadvertently violating any regulations. This is especially important if you plan on having employees work overtime or take advantage of flexible scheduling options.
You can find information on labor laws in your state or country by contacting your local Chamber of Commerce or Department of Labor. You can also consult an attorney to get specific advice on compliance. Depending on your business, you may also need to comply with industry-specific regulations. For example, if you have remote employees in the healthcare industry, you’ll need to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
4. Not Providing the Same Benefits as On-Site Employees
If you have remote employees, it’s crucial to provide them with the same benefits as your on-site employees. This includes health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off (PTO). Not providing the same benefits could lead to discrimination claims.
You may need to get creative when providing benefits for remote employees. For example, you could offer a stipend to help cover the cost of health insurance or set up a retirement plan that allows employees to make tax-deductible contributions. You could also provide additional PTO days for employees who work remotely. But be sure to check your state’s labor laws to ensure you’re not violating any regulations.
5. Not Providing Adequate Training
Just because employees work remotely doesn’t mean they should be left to figure things out on their own. Ensure you provide adequate training on any new systems or processes they’ll need to use while working remotely. Failing to do so can lead to frustration and decreased productivity. Some laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), also require employers to provide training on using any assistive technologies necessary for employees with disabilities.
When providing training for remote employees, you have a few options. You could create video tutorials, offer web-based training, or provide training manuals. You could also hold virtual training sessions using a tool like GoToMeeting or Zoom. Whichever method you choose, be sure to provide employees with the resources they need to be successful in their roles.
Managing a remote workforce comes with unique challenges, but as long as you’re aware of the potential legal pitfalls, you can avoid them entirely. Just remember that you need to stay up-to-date on labor laws, provide the same benefits as you would for on-site employees, and offer adequate training. Do all of this, and you’ll be well on your way to managing a successful remote workforce.