Are you enjoying work from home? It doesn’t matter. Here are some important things for you to think about in the virtual workspace. Most workplaces have changed to have employees work from home, including having online meetings and limiting the necessity to come to the office. Even though many states are encouraging businesses to go “back to normal” by fully or mostly reopening, many employers have extended the duration of work from home until the summer of 2021. Most importantly, there are now a set of rules and regulations that apply to the remote workspace, just as there are in the physical workspace.
The Department of Labor has produced the new rules to explain how to track remote employees working hours, which is the employer’s responsibility. If you run a business, this method will help you to introduce a system to report the working hours. This is very important because there is no way to strictly keep track of someone’s time in the remote workplaces. It is crucial to track the time, because most remote employees tend to do their work differently at home than in a 9-to-5 environment.
An employer obviously has to pay for the hours that the employee performed to complete required tasks, based on the idea of “actual knowledge or constructive (presumed) knowledge. Not only that, but if you are an employer, it is your responsibility to identify exactly what work is to be performed remotely and what is not. Unless you can do that, it’s your burden to show that an employee only spent – or should have spent – a specific amount of hours per day on the job. So an employer has the right to implement rules to prohibit employees from working when they are not supposed to work. If any employee goes against those rules or performs unauthorized work, you as an example, as an example, as an employer have the power to discipline them. You also have the right to do an investigation before compensating employees for the hours they claimed to have worked.
It’s not easy to have “business as usual “ when all or most employees are working form their own home. So businesses should put in place a new system for reporting of actual working hours. As an example, if an employee has worked extra hours, it would be his/her responsibility to report that. But employers should not discourage accurate reporting with their self-reporting policies.
On the other hand, businesses are not responsible to investigate unscheduled work hours if an employee has failed or neglected to report them. If you as an employee made a mistake and understated your work hours, it’s your loss.
To all employers who want to continue remote work, this message is for you. Make clear rules for reporting of work hours. For employees, report your work time precisely, if you want to get paid for it. Don’t assume that a work project will “speak for itself” or that your supervisor will “automatically know” your time based on what you’ve done in the past. Now, the difference between expected time and actual time can make a big difference in dollars. Still confused? Call a good lawyer for help.
Aleksandra Syniec, who wrote this article, is a second-year law student at Seton Hall University School of Law. She is also knowledgeable in landlord-tenant law and the information technology.