3 hidden legal issues when employees work from home

IT departments are being called on to support more telecommuting employees and make sure they have the technology needed to effectively work and communicate with their peers back in the office. Here’s another way IT folks can assist their companies in the midst of the telecommuting boom:

Helping the organization avoid legal issues.

In addition to productivity concerns and other day-to-day questions, allowing employees to work from home creates new legal pitfalls for companies.

Here are a few of telecommuting’s biggest legal issues, and how IT can help avoid them:

1. Worker’s compensation

Multiple court cases have held companies liable for covering costs incurred by employees who injured themselves while working at home.

Therefore, when companies get their home offices set up, experts recommend they take safety into account — for example, by making sure the employee has ergonomically suitable equipment and furniture.

Companies’ efforts should also be documented (for example, by getting a photograph of the workstation) so the company can later prove it did its part to give the employee a safe work area.

2. Wage & hour law

Another legal issue with telecommuting is that letting employees work from home makes it much more difficult to monitor employees’ work hours, making companies potentially more susceptible to violations of wage & hour laws.

For example, employees may work overtime hours without their manager knowing, but then later sue for back pay.

One way IT can help is by installing time clock software on remote workers’ machines that requires them to clock in and out.

3. Privacy and data protection

In many cases, telecommuting employees will have jobs that require the use of sensitive company or customer information. Because people’s home networks are often less secure than a company’s that confidential data could be more likely to be hacked when it’s handled by a remote worker.

To keep that from happening, IT should make sure remote employees have the right security technology in place, such as VPNs, firewalls and antivirus software.

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