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According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Report, nearly 4 million U.S. employees – almost 3 percent of the U.S. labor force – work from home at least half of the time, a 115 percent increase in telecommuting jobs since 2005. As technology continues to improve, businesses are finding that offering employees the option of telecommuting can pay big dividends. But telecommuting does raise certain legal issues for your business that are worth considering.
Telecommuting means that employees are provided the ability to perform at least some of their job responsibilities away from the company’s main office. Work might be performed at a branch or satellite office, at home, or even in a hotel room while traveling. Some employees telecommute full-time, other part-time. Computers and cell phones, using high-speed internet connections and secure servers, make telecommunicating easy and seamless.
How Telecommuting Can Benefit Your Business
If you already have employees who telecommute, you know about the benefits it can have for your business. Employees are generally happier because telecommuting can break up their routines, create better work-life balance, and save them money in transportation costs. Telecommuting workers also tend to be more efficient because they have access to work whether or not they are in the office. Additionally, disabled employees can sometimes be better accommodated when they work from home.
While telecommuting can be ideal for workers, it can also benefit your business financially. According to Global Workplace Analytics, a typical business can save about $11,000 per person, per year, on employees who telecommute half-time. Most of the savings come in the form of reduced office space needs and associated costs. Telecommuting can also help you in business continuity planning, serving as a critical business backup in the event of an emergency.
Legal Issues Surrounding Telecommuting
Along with any work-from-home policy comes a different set of potential legal issues businesses should consider. Monitoring the time worked by non-exempt employees is one such consideration. It’s important that managers are trained to monitor the schedules of those employees to avoid unapproved overtime or other wage and hour issues.
Telecommuting touches on a number of other employment laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), state workers’ compensation laws, privacy concerns, and workplace safety. Business managers need to have a clear understanding of each of these laws to ensure they are in compliance.
Whenever technology is involved, but especially in the case of remote technology, it’s important for businesses to take the necessary steps to ensure that sensitive customer, employee, financial or other proprietary business data remains secure. If a breach of data occurs, it must be dealt with immediately as the reputation and finances of the company may be at risk.
Getting Legal Assistance
The assistance of a knowledge employment law attorney can be invaluable for businesses that have telecommuting employees. An employment law attorney can help to make sure that your company is following the letter of the law and gaining the full benefit of any telecommuting program.
The employment law attorneys at Tully Rinckey PLLC understand how complicated and sensitive issues concerning your employees can be. We address your legal issues promptly, with confidentiality, and with an eye toward minimizing business disruptions. Contact us to schedule a consultation.