With the growth of remote working accelerated in recent months, businesses must adapt to the new look of their workforce-on and off-site and adjust policies to address the rights of remote workers.
While the rights of in-office workers have been heavily fought for and publicized, the world of remote working remains a novelty. This has meant that the Human Resources department in businesses worldwide has had to reimagine, realign, and redraft their policies on employee rights and employer responsibilities to cover the employee population working from home. In doing so, HR professionals must not only aim to comply with employment laws, they must consider the unique rights of workers that may arise when managing a remote workforce.
Each employer has a duty of care to their in-office workers to provide a safe and productive workplace. With remote workers, it is no different. Companies with remote working teams must include Health and Safety regulations aimed at identifying potential risks of a remote worker’s environment. This can be done by including a risk assessment of a remote worker’s intended workspace at home.
Employers are also expected to provide reasonable support to workers in the form of equipment, information, and access to technology to enable a remote worker to perform their job. Research has shown that remote workers are more productive, but this can be argued to only be true if they are given the same advantages and tools as an in-office employee. In addition to the provision of effective tools for remote workers, HR policies must include clear and actionable protocols on the reporting of remote employee illness and injuries while on the job. This also gives rise to the legal rights of remote workers like the process and redress for telecommuting injuries. Finally, HR professionals must give some thought to replacement planning, which refers to the fulfillment of roles when an employee is sick.
One of the clear benefits of remote working for both businesses and employees has been the ability to access labor across the state or country lines. However, having remote workers in multiple states also comes with compensation consideration which their HR and Payroll worker policies must adhere to. One of them is the minimum state wage which is determined by where your employee works.
Therefore, if your employee works and lives in a different state, you are legally obliged to comply with the state’s minimum pay and state tax laws. For instance, at the beginning of this year, 7 states — including Alaska and Ohio — increased their minimum wage rates in line with rises in the cost of living. Company policy must also incorporate local laws on the classification of remote employees versus remote contractors- as each classification comes with differing tax responsibilities. When determining the financial compensation for remote workers during the recruitment and hiring stage, HR managers must rely on state regulations and market expectations. In addition to minimum wage laws, the observance of specific employment laws for international workers is also expected.
Companies with remote workers should also make every effort to provide adequate support to their remote teams as part of their health and safety protocols. In recent years, the importance of mental health support in the workplace has gotten much attention. For remote workers, the risks can be more pronounced which can in turn impact remote worker productivity and the costs of having a remote working team.
To support the mental well being of remote employees, the inclusion of mental health benefits in their benefits and remuneration package is needed. Similar to an in-office employee’s benefits package, companies should allow remote workers to access employee assistance plans like access to therapists/counselors, along with regular mental health information sessions.
Lastly, HR policies must consider the inclusion of remote workers in accessing equal opportunities for professional development opportunities and advancement in the company. In-office employees benefit from regular training and professional development opportunities hosted by their employers. Employers of remote workers are also expected to provide the same opportunities for remote workers-albeit in a different learning format. Digital seminars and training courses can be used as alternatives to on-site professional development or training.
There remains much work to be done on remote workers’ rights. To combat the potential HR, financial and organizational issues that may arise, companies must work harder to make their company policies and procedures much more inclusive and considerate of their workforce-in and out of office.