Top Three Tips for Employers in Implementing Remote Work Policies

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges and changes in the workplace, with one of the biggest changes being the increase in remote work for employees. As the economy reopens this year, employers are now able to bring employees safely back to the workplace. However, many employers are also exploring flexible work arrangements that allow their employees to continue to work remotely.

Implementing a remote work policy can be a benefit to employers in retaining employees by allowing flexibility in their schedules and may also help attract new employees that would not otherwise live close enough to the employer’s workplace. Here are three tips employers should follow when implementing a remote work policy for their workplace.

1) Create a written policy for remote work. Having all or part of your workforce working remotely presents new challenges for both employers and employees, thus it is important to lay out the policy clearly in writing. A remote work policy should clearly state which employees are eligible for remote work (and any employees that are not eligible) and the requirements for working remotely, including the ability to still meet the essential functions of the position. Employers can implement a general work from home policy that allows employees to voluntarily work from home when it is necessary for the employee’s convenience. Alternatively, employers can approve remote work arrangements with employees on an individual basis that allow employees to work remotely either full or part time, in which case the employer should enter into a separate remote work agreement with each employee. Either way, the policies should be signed by employees to acknowledge receipt and should include a statement that the employer has the right to revoke the remote work option at any time.

2) Comply with all labor laws for non-exempt employees working remotely. Remote work for non-exempt employees can pose challenges for employers in ensuring that hours worked are tracked properly, all overtime is paid, and adequate meal and rest breaks are provided. Employees must track their time, including meal and rest breaks, as accurately as possible when working remotely just as they would in the workplace. Employers should be clear about the working hours for non-exempt employees to ensure they are not working off the clock. Policies requiring pre-approval for overtime should also be reiterated in the remote work policy. Working hours and breaks can be difficult to track when employees are not present at the worksite, thus it is important to layout the requirements in writing and set up a system of communication with your remote employees.

3) Reimburse employees business expenses where required. Under California law, employers must reasonably reimburse workers for all “necessary” business expenses incurred by the employee in carrying out their job duties. If the remote work policy is voluntary and employees have a designated office at the workplace that they can use anytime, their expenses for remote work will likely not need to be reimbursed since the remote work is voluntary and not “necessary.” However, during the pandemic most employees were required to work remotely and it became necessary for their job. If employees are still required to work remotely under an employer’s policy, employers must reimburse employees for expenses incurred in working remotely including paying all or part of their cell phone and internet bills, providing or paying for office supplies, and even paying for necessary office furniture.

Employers should work with legal counsel to ensure their remote work policies are compliant.

For questions about this or any other employment law matters, contact Marissa Buck or anyone on the DPF Employment Law team.