Canada: If Employees Are Telecommuting …: Bucking The Yahoo! Trend

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 personal property.
  • 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 explicitly stated.
  • 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 circumstances.

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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