Telecommuting may be on the way out at Yahoo! but it is
very much alive elsewhere. So if you have employees who are working
from home, or if you are considering it, you should think through
the employment issues.
The first question is: Do you have a written agreement to set
out the telecommuting rules? If not, you need one.
The next question is: What does the telecommuting agreement need
to address? Here is a list of some issues to consider:
How do you monitor and manage hours of work? Unless you fit
into one of the exemptions in the BC Employment Standards
Regulation, you will be liable for all hours that the employee
works, or is allowed to work, at home. See our
post about overtime for more information.
How do you meet your obligation to provide a safe workplace?
The kids' toys scattered around the floor of the home
"office" may be a workplace hazard. The employee needs to
provide assurances about how the home office will be furnished and
maintained and the employer needs to have the ability to check it
out from time to time. The employee also needs to commit to report
any workplace injury.
How do you protect confidential, proprietary or personal
information? The agreement needs to address how paper files are to
be handled and stored, how computers are to be used and secured,
and how communications are to be protected.
Who supplies, owns and maintains the required equipment and
supplies? Be clear about who pays for what, and whether or not
there is to be any compensation for use of the employee's
What insurance is required and do the employer's insurance
policies impose any conditions or restrictions on employees working
from home? Review existing policies and consider what extra
insurance is required and who pays for it.
Do you need the employee to report to the regular place of work
at certain times or on request? Such obligations should be
Finally, in case your new CEO wants to do a Yahoo!,
make sure your agreement allows for amendment or termination of the
telecommuting arrangement at any time.
The telecommuting or "working from home" agreement is
important but it need not be complicated. One or two pages can help
provide some certainty and manageability in a variety of
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
A former teacher at Bodwell High School has learned a valuable lesson from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal— it is not discriminatory for an employer to offer child-related benefits to only employees with children.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
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