As SpringLaw’s Lisa Stam outlined in a recent article, since the pandemic, we’ve been seeing more workplaces shift to either a fully remote or a hybrid working arrangement. This shift brings in a whole new set of questions surrounding what employers’ obligations are to their employees working from home and what policies to have in place. Here’s the lowdown on what employers need to know about remote and hybrid working arrangements.
What is a Remote or Hybrid Working Arrangement?
An entirely remote working arrangement is pretty self-explanatory. Employees work from home on a full-time basis and are never required to go into an office. A hybrid working arrangement, on the other hand, has become much more common since the pandemic. It incorporates both remote and in-office work. Being a newer concept, employers are still figuring out what this arrangement looks like for their company. Some employers set the days that an employee is required to be in the office, whereas other employers will set how many days a week an employee should be in the office but the employee ultimately chooses the days. With both these working arrangements gaining popularity, it’s important for employers to be mindful of changing demands and their legal obligations to employees working from home.
Policies for Employees Working from Home
Essentially, any policy that is in effect in your company’s in-person office setting, also applies to your employees working from home. This is the case whether the employee is working from home all the time or only sometimes. Employers are encouraged to have a Remote Worker Policy in place to eliminate any ambiguity about what working from home looks like and to outline what’s expected. Included in this policy should be a definition of what remote/hybrid working means for your company, the working hours, instructions on how to get office supplies, what to do if any employee is sick or taking time off work, how overtime works, and the geographical parameters of at-home offices – we’ll touch on this last point further down.
We’ve also discussed Disconnect from Work Policies in a past blog, as well as Electronic Monitoring Policies in last week’s blog. These are both extremely important (and depending on your employee count, mandatory) policies to have in place for both in-office and remote working of any kind to ensure employees’ rights are not being violated.
Under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), employers are required to take reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of their employees. This extends to employees working from home. Employers may want to implement a risk assessment checklist for employees working from home to promote a culture of awareness and safety.
Addressing Jurisdictional Issues and Remote Work
Lastly, we’ve had many questions from both employers and employees surrounding the location employees can conduct their remote work. The long of the short of it is that an employee is governed by the laws of their local jurisdiction, i.e. where they are working, not where the company’s headquarters or main office is located. Some things an employer should be mindful of when hiring out-of-province employees are any payroll implications and local regulatory taxes, potential immigration or visa requirements, local health care coverages, as well as any differing employment standards laws, like overtime, privacy laws, and security requirements.
Have questions about your company’s remote work and/or hybrid setup? Get in touch for a consultation.