Posted on August 13, 2014

Telecommuting and Remote Access Policies: 3 Things to Consider

Telecommuting and remote access are becoming more and more popular, making work for people with families or disabilities more manageable. There are many things that leaders need to consider when setting up a policy and deciding whether telecommuting and remote access could work as options within your company.

1. Cybersecurity

What happens if an employee’s laptop or smartphone full of company data is suddenly lost or stolen? Do you have a plan in place of how to recover confidential and trade-secret information? This is something you must think about before allowing employees the option to telecommute. One course of action is the company wiping the device completely clean; make sure employees know that this loss of all their data is a possibility if something should happen to their device while working remotely. The last thing you want is an employee not to know and then to raise a complaint about their personal information being lost.

2. Workers’ Compensation

Most of the time, if an employee is injured on the job, company policy clearly states how workers’ compensation comes into play. But if an employee is injured while working remotely, could it still count as a worker’s compensation complaint? The answer may not be as simple as you think. Planning ahead in your policies and practices for future potential issues can help mitigate confusion down the line.

3. Wage and hour law

Wage and hour law should predominate what you’re thinking about when creating telecommuting policies. An employer's duty to pay for all hours worked is not diminished because an employee is working from home or somewhere else out of the office.

There is also the problem of meal and rest breaks; federal law does not require them, but different states may have different policies. It can become difficult to stay compliant if you have employees working remotely. Consider proactively managing the risk by requiring employees to report uncompensated time and submitting a form when they miss a scheduled meal or rest break. If you have policies requiring accurate reporting, you will be insulated against liabilities.

Whether or not you decide to allow telecommuting and working remotely is up to you, but you need to have a clear policy in place. However, keep in mind that you may be required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow some employees with extenuating circumstances the option of telecommuting if it counts as a reasonable accommodation and their physical presence is not an essential function of their job.

For more on creating telecommuting and remote access policies, check out this article, The Ins and Outs of Telecommuting and Flexible Schedule Policies.