Flexible, hybrid, and remote schedules are the new normal in the business world. However, there are legal ramifications that employers should be aware of while trying to keep employees happy.
Recently Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, announced that employees at the company must return to the office for a minimum of four days a week. This announcement is the latest in an ongoing discussion worldwide: return to the office, or continue to offer remote options? In recent years, due to necessity, flexible work schedules have become the norm rather than a rare opportunity. Employers praised workers for their ability to adapt quickly and accomplish their work in unprecedented circumstances. However, when companies ask that their employees return to the office full-time, they face serious pushback. Many companies are wondering how to handle the flexible work situation and must also consider the legal implications of these schedules before making any decisions. At your own office, you may be wondering if you should continue offering remote flexibility, or you may be wondering how to approach your employees about coming back to the office full-time. Below, we discuss the compliance issues that may affect hybrid work, how to decide what schedule is suitable for your office, and how to approach your employees about any schedule changes you choose to make.
Tips for navigating hybrid, remote, and flexible work schedules
When considering what schedules to offer in your office, make sure to think about what your employees value. You may want to poll your office or ask team leaders what they feel their employees want most. Do your employees want to work fully virtual or on a hybrid basis? Then, consider your needs. Do you need your employees to have a rigid schedule, or can their hours and time working remotely versus in-person change when needed? You’ll also want to think about what your competitors are doing. Are they offering fully remote and hybrid schedules? It’s a good idea to provide similar or better options than other companies because of how competitive the market landscape is. If you have great employees, keeping them engaged with a flexible work schedule can help to retain them.
Is remote not suitable for your business? How can you handle asking your employees to come into the office full-time?
If your business has specific needs that must be met in person, you may need to tell your workers that you can no longer offer remote employment opportunities. Approach this conversation carefully and recognize that this may be a dealbreaker for some employees. Be open to your employees’ concerns and be as flexible as possible. You can make it easier for your team members by offering alternative reporting schedules, like 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also explore implementing a 4-day workweek, which is an option many businesses have found advantageous. It’s also a good idea to reinvest in your company culture with team lunches, after-hours events, and other bonding opportunities. If you are touting company culture as a reason you want your employees to return to the office, it’s a good time to start encouraging these activities within your company. Finally, you may still lose employees over this change, and you’ll need to be prepared for that reality. If you lose some of your best team members, keep the lines of communication open, as you may find these employees choose to return if their new jobs don’t meet their expectations.
What are legal aspects to consider with remote work?
Allowing employees to work a hybrid, flexible, or fully remote schedule includes more than enacting a policy. If you decide to continue offering remote flexibility, there are legal issues to consider. The three most common problems include:
Protecting your data with remote or hybrid employees
You must ensure that your company’s data, as well as your clients’ data, is protected. However, when you allow employees to work remotely, this data could be compromised. Are your employees working from public Wi-Fi hotspots or unsecured networks? These networks can be highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Do your employees leave their laptops unattended in a public place? How complicated is the login process? Do your employees know what to do if they think data has been compromised? These are all questions that you should answer before you allow your employees to work remotely. There are some steps you can take to protect your company’s data. First, you can require that they only work from their home and not in public settings. You can require your employees to use a virtual private network (VPN) that will encrypt any vulnerable data that could be hacked over an open network connection. Finally, multi-factor authentication will ensure that your employees are using more than one method of verifying their identity when they log in, confirming that only the intended audience is accessing your secure data. With these varied levels of security, you’ll be able to better protect your data no matter where your employees sign in.
Tax considerations, wage and hour issues, EEO, and more
Once you’ve figured out how your employees can work outside the office without compromising your secure data, you must also keep a record of where your employees are working. State corporate, withholding, and unemployment taxes vary by state and locality, and when it comes time to pay your employment taxes, you’ll need to know if your employees are working in a different state than you are operating. If your company is not set up to properly report and remit taxes, your company could face audits, fines, penalties, and other legal ramifications for not properly remitting taxes.
You will also need to pay attention to the wage and hour issues specific to the state and locality your employee works in. States, and some cities, vary greatly in minimum wage rates, overtime computation, sick pay, exempt salary thresholds, and other wage and hour laws. You’ll need an accurate system to calculate and pay your employees for their time. This system should be available for both in-person workers as well as those working remotely. Finally, don’t offer “comp time” to your employees. Comp time refers to allowing employees to take equivalent hours off as PTO instead of paying an overtime rate for any hours worked over 40. This practice is generally illegal.
Further, ensure that you follow other local compliance laws where an employee works remotely. For example, workers’ compensation laws, equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws, and more often vary by state. Additionally, if your employee moves, you’ll need to be alerted so that you can make sure you have incorporated their new state’s laws into your employment practices.
There are many considerations to keep in mind when handling a partially or fully remote workforce, and it can be complicated for small business owners to manage on their own. Need help figuring out how to protect your company from compliance complications surrounding remote policies? PrestigePEO serves as your remote HR team, walking you through the whole process, from what options to offer your employees, how to protect your company, and how to discuss any changes with your staff. Contact us today to learn more.
Remote work opportunities are more common today than ever before, and the business world has moved past the times when the work norm was coming into an office five days a week. You can stay competitive in the job market by offering flexibility in your employment opportunities. However, you will need to keep the elements above in mind. You will also need an HR professional on your side, and PrestigePEO is the right choice for small to mid-sized businesses across the country. We will pair you with a team of HR professionals who can handle HR questions, onboarding, compliance concerns, payroll, and more. We will do what we do best: take care of your HR needs. You can get back to growing your business, and we will thrive together. Are you interested in learning more? Reach out to us today.