Gay Jones & Kuhn Small Business Series
REMOTE WORK POLICIES DURING COVID-19
March 24, 2020
Businesses throughout the U.S. and all around the world are trying to quickly adjust to the ever-changing COVID-19 crisis and implement new policies to allow employees to work remotely. In last week’s small business series, “Remote Work Policy Is Key to A Successful Virtual Workplace,” we walked through, generally, how to make the transition to remote work.
Following that post, we received several questions about how to write the exact policies needed for remote work. Specifically, we were asked, “how do I revise/write my remote work policy to ensure my employees understand working from home is temporary and not something they will be permitted to continue after our current states of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic end?”
Businesses should be careful and avoid making revisions to or creating new remote policies which could have long term ramifications legally. We recommend having an attorney review your policy prior to implementation. Remote work does not exempt a business from the laws and employment requirements of the normal day-to-day workplace.
For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was put into place to assist employers and employees in finding reasonable accommodations for employees to continue to do their jobs with a disability. This law has been widely applied and is extremely important. However, we have seen some people misuse the ADA requirements.
It is important that the remote work policy put in place today does not establish precedent that the remote work is presumptively a reasonable accommodation for employees in the future. We suggest communicating this to your employees in writing and also adding this clarification to your current employee manual. Something as simple as the following language could be used:
“During a declared pandemic or other declarations of emergency, we may allow employees to work from home even where this would not be permitted in the ordinary course of their employment.”
“Due to the current pandemic, you may be allowed to work remotely. Please be advised that your presence at the workplace is an essential part of your job duties and may be required at any time we deem it is safe to return to the workplace.”
Simply put, be sure you clearly communicate to your employees that the remote work policy is related to the temporary state of the world (such as an emergency public health crisis) and that physical presence at the workplace continues to be an essential part of their jobs.
Need help crafting a well-written remote work policy? GJK can help. We are collaborating with businesses to help them minimize risks while transitioning to effective, productive virtual work environments. Email Mary Margaret Gay at email@example.com, Sarah Beth Jones firstname.lastname@example.org or Joanna Kuhn at email@example.com for more information for your small business.