Employer Risk in the Remote Employee World

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

The trend of more American employees working remotely has been on the rise for years, earning and maintaining a spot in the hot topics category. A growing number of employees and employers view remote working as broadly beneficial, with data showing that remote workers are more productive and that the additional flexibility can help to close the gender gap. Recent polls show that flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities have been found to play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job.

Most people are able to quickly identify the collaboration difficulties, employee isolation and the higher possibility of distractions hindering productivity as challenges. These however do not even scratch the surface of this modern dilemma.

Employers should carefully review their current practices, as well as policies and

procedures to make sure that the risk presented by remote working arrangement is properly identified and adequately mitigated.

Where to start:

Do you have a Telecommuting Policy?

You should. The policy should specify eligibility criteria, as not all jobs or individuals are a good fit for remote work. Your policy should have clear guidelines on critical terms. Each remote employee should sign a telecommuting agreement ensuring that all are on the same page with expectations and requirements.

Have you checked your insurance coverage?

As an employer, it is important for you to understand and communicate to the employee what the corporate insurance policies do, and do not cover. What happens if the employee breaks their leg walking through their kitchen? What happens if there is a fire in the employee’s work area and there is extensive damage to property and equipment? It is not only important for the employer to understand the coverage and limitations of its policies, but also for the employee to understand any benefits or limitations of their homeowners’ policy.

Are your remote employees familiar with Health and Safety requirements?

Depending on the company, the industry, and other factors, Health and Safety related laws and regulations can have stringent compliance and reporting requirements. You must ensure that your policies, plans and procedures take into account your remote workforce. It is also critical to ensure that the remote staff is aware of and compliant with applicable requirements.

How is confidential and proprietary information handled?

Whether the information is yours, your client’s, vendor’s, or another person’s that has entrusted you with it, do you have structure in place to protect it? Do your employees sign confidentiality agreements? Is your employee permitted to take covered information out of their immediate work area? Does anyone other than the employee have access to the work area? Should additional precautions be taken to protect the information?

Cyber Security…

Cyber Security is a topic of its own. In this context, are you aware of devises being used to access data? Are they secure? Are employees permitted to use their personal phones, iPads, computers to access company information? Are employees using secure connection? Is the employee’s network sufficiently safeguarded? How much easier is it for a hacker to get access to data when your employee is working remotely, rather than in your office, on your network, with your equipment, behind your firewall…. Etc.

Are you compliant with local regulations?

Many states and municipalities have laws and regulations dealing with remote employees. Do you have a matrix of jurisdictional requirements for each of your employee locations? You should. Requirements vary from state registration, to required filing, to withholding. Be aware of them and be compliant.

Risk mitigation is not hard. In this context you can begin by putting together your review team. Creating or modifying a policy, restructuring business insurance, enhancing security on devises, as well as training employees on cyber or safety threats do not present significant cost, but non-compliance does. What you cannot do is understand and mitigate a risk until you are aware of it. Today is a great day to start!

If you have a question, or would like more information, give us a call!

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