The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in unprecedented change for the workplace after stay-at-home orders, isolation and quarantine requirements, and accommodation requests resulted in many employees temporarily working from home. Employers and employees alike recognized certain benefits of remote work arrangements, which led many business leaders to explore hybrid and permanent remote work policies. While remote work arrangements are not practical for every job or desired by every employer, when such arrangements are embraced and become embedded into company policy, employers need to ensure they are taking proper precautions. Below are seven tips that employers should consider when implementing remote work policies.
- Create a Written Remote Work Policy
You should consider creating a written policy establishing the criteria and guidelines for working remotely. Will all employees and roles be eligible? Identify the roles that are critical to your business operations and determine whether those individuals can carry out their jobs while working remotely. Set performance standards and expectations from the start, and include policies on security and data protection, safety, and expectations about equipment and materials.
- Review Rules on Expense Reimbursement
Be sure that your pay practices for all employees – those who work onsite and those who work remotely – comply with the applicable federal and state wage and hour laws. In some states, such as California, employers must ensure all business expenses that are “reasonable” and “necessary” to perform the job remotely are reimbursed. At least ten states – California, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota − and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring employers to reimburse employees for certain remote work expenses.
Even if the applicable state does not require reimbursement, failure to reimburse could lead to allegations of federal wage and hour violations for those paid at or near the minimum wage. For example, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers generally don’t have to reimburse employees for work-related expenses unless the costs would cause the employee’s earnings to fall below the minimum wage. This means you should take extra care to ensure that any additional expenses remote employees incur for business-related items – such as office supplies, internet access, and printers — don’t bring their wages below the required rates or cut into their overtime pay. Additionally, exempt employees working remotely should be paid the full salary to which they are entitled subject to lawful deductions. If allowable, any expenses they are responsible for covering should not bring their salary below the required threshold for the exemption.
Expenses can take many forms, and employers should examine the perks and amenities they typically provide to onsite employees to determine which perks they plan to provide to remote workers. For example, if traditional employees are provided with a monthly free lunch, consider whether you will reimburse remote employees for a personal meal of equal value. Travel is another important consideration for remote workers—if non-exempt employees work from home and are required to travel to their employer’s office after the start of their workday – such as for a meeting – they may also be entitled to compensation for their travel time to the office in addition to a per-mile fuel reimbursement.
Your remote work policy should include a section on reimbursements that complies with the laws of the states in which you operate. Address which expenses may or may not be reimbursable and whether you will provide a stipend that you anticipate will reasonably satisfy such costs. To ensure …….