Part 3 of the Remote Work Best Practices series addresses concerns around creating telecommuting policies. Thank you to our partners, Greensfelder Attorneys at Law for their guidance.
Should employers institute a temporary remote work/telecommuter policy for their entire workforce?
This answer is largely dependent on several individual factors relating solely to your company (e.g.,industry, work force, area where workers reside, etc.). We have seen an increase in employers implementing such policies, however. For certain businesses and industries, telecommuting may be a good strategy for mitigating the illness through contact at work. Even if an employer does not does not implement a temporary work from home policy, employers should be prepared for an increase in inquiries about telecommuting from employees who prefer not to report for work (see guidance below on this specific issue). If an employee asks to work from home because of a medical condition that places him or her at higher risk for infection, an employer may be obligated to consider this request as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or state law. Even where there is no legal obligation to provide accommodations, employers may find that allowing an employee to work from home is preferable to not having the employee work at all. Similarly, employers should examine their short-term disability policies, as they may provide benefits in the event the employee is unable to work.
In designing telecommuting policies and procedures, employers should first identify which jobs can be successfully performed outside of the office. Many jobs simply cannot be performed from home, and not all employers have the technology infrastructure or organization necessary to make working from home a productive option. Where working from home is permitted, employers should establish expectations for employees’ work and communications while they are away from the office. For example, these may include specified working hours, expectations for responding to calls and email, and productivity goals. Employers should also ensure that their employees have a medium available to accurately reflect their hours. In Illinois, for example, employers are required to maintain a record of all hours worked each day and each week for all workers, which as of February 19, 2019, now includes exempt employees.
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