The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way people work. We're moving from a situation where the vast majority of employees perform tasks in commercial premises to one in which many are working from home offices. What's more, the current arrangements could be with us for some time, perhaps even long-term, if COVID-19 comes around for a second or third bite.
This change in working practices is forcing employers to ask important questions about how they can stay compliant with current labor laws while operating a partly or wholly digital workforce.
The good news is that some companies are already making the shift and have announced they will indefinitely pursue home-working policies. Insurance firm Slater and Gordon recently stated that it would be closing its London offices and moving many of its workers online permanently. And Direct Insurance Group, a broker for financial institutions like Lloyds bank, says that it too will formally embrace remote working long-term.
HR and Compliance Implications and Challenges
From a public health perspective, remote working is helping to push back against the pandemic and "flatten the curve." HR departments, and compliance officers, however, need to remain vigilant. Here are some of things they need to do to remain compliant with a digital workforce.
Use Systems To Accurately Track Working Hours
Laws at the local, state, and federal levels require firms to track time spent working accurately. In regular times, companies followed hours worked using on-site facilities where workers clocked in or out manually. Others relied on handwritten rotas.
Systems like these, however, are not possible in a remote working environment. Hence, managers need to use a different approach. The best solution is to use an electronic time-keeping system that allows workers to specify when they start and stop. As the employer, you then oversee the recorded hours and make amendments in case of error.
Be unequivocal that you prohibit off-the-clock work in all your employee communications, which is not allowed in many jurisdictions, to protect yourself from legal action.
Ensure You Continue To Meet Rest And Meal Requirements
Most states have rest and meal requirements that compel employers to allow workers breaks throughout the day. Whether these laws cover your enterprise depends considerably on your location. If they do, you should continue to apply the rules, regardless of whether employees are working from home or not.
The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act states that you must pay rest breaks of 20 minutes or less. If you want to avoid paying a meal period, it must be at least 30 minutes long, and the employee must be fully relieved of duties. They can't, for instance, be firing off emails while munching a sandwich at their desk.
Telling employees to clock off and on digitally when they take breaks helps you keep track of the time they spend on breaks so you can pay them appropriately.
Satisfy "Reasonable Accommodation" Requirements
When employees work from home, employers must provide "reasonable accommodation." This statute usually applies if a member of your remote workforce has a disability. Under the law in some states, they may have the right to ask you to provide equipment or modifications that enable them to carry out tasks successfully from home. Sometimes these involve changes to the physical environment, while other times, it can mean differences in the way that work is done.
When speaking with employees about their needs under reasonable accommodation clauses, stick with the facts. Discuss their requirements and functional limitations. Don't veer off-topic. Then make arrangements to facilitate work that do not cause you undue hardship in the process.
Furnish Your Employees With Notices Concerning Their Rights
Some states require you to provide your employees with a notice of rights and responsibilities. If that applies to you, offer both a hard and digital copy of a labor law poster. Make sure that you meet all language requirements.
Find Out Which Laws Apply To You
Finally, companies operating remote teams need to stay compliant with the laws that apply to them. Doing this, however, is easier said than done. Remote working adds complexity. For instance, if a worker is out of state, then their labor laws might differ significantly from yours.
Fortunately, you can get workplace posters for digital workforce from eViewer. The system is built around a cloud-based web portal that allows both you and remote employees to see the labor laws that apply in their city, state, or environment. Importantly, it lets you stay up to date with all the latest legal revisions, so you're never behind the times.