The transition from an onsite workforce to a fully remote workforce was quick. And at the time, few really expected the pandemic to last as long as it has. Now, we have to deal with the fact most federal, state and local wage-and-hour laws were created pre-COVID-19.
What does this mean?
Simple, the complexities of a remote workforce weren’t addressed. And now Benefits pros must try and navigate this complex topic.
If everyone had gone back to the office after a few months, it wouldn’t have been a big issue. But most didn’t because they found that a remote office environment worked for them.
Legislators didn’t write the Federal, state and local wage-and-hour laws with a remote workforce in mind. But now we have to figure out how these laws relate to a remote work situation.
What are firms to do?
Be proactive! Address any issue that crop up from trying to fit these pre-COVID-19 wage-and-hour laws into our new reality, said Post & Schell P.C. attorneys Andrea Kirshenbaum, Fara Cohen and Eve Keller, in The Legal Intelligencer.
First, assess any structural and legal issues as they relate to where employees do their work, explained the lawyers. For example:
- Out of state employees. Do you have employees who currently work from home and used to commute to your office from another state? If so, you’ll be dealing with state-specific wage-and-hour laws. Pay special attention to notice and posting requirements. And watch paid leave laws – paid sick leave, disability leave, and meal and rest break laws. States and cities often have their own laws that apply now that employees are performing their work duties from home.
- Hybrid models. What if your employees are working remotely some days and in the office others? Do you use the employee’s state of residence laws or the firm’s home office state laws? Figuring that out isn’t always black and white. In such cases, firms need to consider if they need to “change the employee’s payroll tax deductions, make contributions to unemployment and temporary disability programs in a different state, or potentially provide additional family leave time,” wrote the lawyers.
Take immediate action
These laws can be confusing because of their complexity. Just act right away and be specific, and document them, if you plan to continue remote work arrangements long term. To do that:
- Create new pandemic policies and expectations. Decide whether you’ll allow employees to work from home after COVID-19 infection rates decrease. If yes, then decide right away who will be able to continue working remotely. Other things to consider: Will they be required to go to the office? If so, how often? And where will they be permitted to work remotely?
- Share the remote work plan with employees. Let them know what your expectations are as far as compensable work time, meal and rest break requirements, and sick, medical and disability leave laws.