EMPLOYER POLICY GUIDELINE FOR EMPLOYEES WORKING AT HOME

By Jeff Epstein

As workplaces remain closed throughout California and businesses have their employees working from home, many of my clients have asked for guidance on policies to use for home workers. This bulletin should be used as a guideline for those businesses that have their employees working at home. This is a guideline and sample policy that can be used now and at any time after the current coronavirus situation has ended and you have employees working at home.

Existing Employee Handbooks, Policies and General Approach:

Employees should be told that the existing employee handbook and policies of the business remain in effect. Obviously, some of the policies need adjusting, such as non-exempt employees using the timeclock at the worksite. Employers shall emphasize that employees need to maintain a business-like atmosphere when they work at home so that their work product reflects a professional approach. If there are young children at home, the employee should arrange, as much as possible, for others to care for the children during work hours.

Specific policies for work at home follow below.

Work Hours:

The employee should maintain the same work hours at home as they would in the office. Employees must still follow the company policy of taking their usual amount of lunch time off (but not less than one-half hour) and two ten-minute break times – one before noon and one after 2:00 pm. They cannot do any work at all during those break times. Employees cannot work overtime hours without prior written approval of their supervisor. An employer must still pay for overtime even if no prior written approval is given, but the employee can face discipline for working overtime without permission.

Employees must keep accurate time records showing the start time, lunch break and end time each workday. Employers can require the use of a form that is filled in by the employee in ink or a program on the computer that can save the information so that hard copies can be printed if needed.

Expenses:

Employers must understand that  Labor Code section 2802 requires employers to reimburse employees for expenses “necessarily incurred” in their employment. Employers comply with that section by either reimbursing a given expense or providing the employee with the equipment necessary to ensure that the employee does not incur the expense in the first place. For instance, when employees use a personal cell phone to make work-related calls an agreement should be reached regarding reimbursement for at least a percentage of their cell phone bill.

Failure to supply the needed equipment or reimbursement for expenses can lead to liability for the business. Therefore, for employers, the most important inquiry is whether the expense was necessary for the work. The best way to avoid any ambiguity is to either provide employees with all equipment the employer deems necessary or have a policy that outlines which expenses are reimbursable and to what extent.  Those expenses employees incur which are necessary business expenses beyond those anticipated in the policy should be submitted in accordance with the company’s existing business expense reimbursement policy. The policy must clearly state that the employer is not responsible for incidental costs such as home mortgages, rent or utilities.

Equipment:

The policy should state that employees may not use employer provided equipment or use or duplicate software for personal use or allow non-employee persons to use it. The employee is required to use the equipment properly and to safeguard all equipment supplied by the employer.  Maintenance of employer supplied equipment can only be performed by employer authorized entities, and will be at the employer’s expense as long as the equipment was not abused by the employee.

The employer will repair or replace, if practical, lost, damaged, or stolen employer equipment, provided the employee has taken appropriate precautions to safeguard the equipment. If the employee is using personal computer equipment for work at home, the hardware and software must be compatible with the employer’s configuration. If possible the employer should use the cloud for work from home as it reduces equipment and increases security.

Work Assignments:

The policy should make it clear that just like working in the “regular” office for work assignments supervisors and employees must discuss and understand what is expected to be produced during work at home and when assignments are due. Supervisors and employees must also arrange when to make regular contact with each other during the workday. Employees should be expected to complete their assignments on time and professionally, as they are at the regular workplace.

Safety and Security:

Passwords should not be stored on employee-owned equipment, if possible, and security measures must be initiated whenever the computer is left unattended. Passwords should not be written down so security is not easily breached. Employees should be expected to follow all appropriate company rules and regulations regarding security and confidentiality of information, including computer data and file security. The employee must take steps to protect records and data from unauthorized disclosure or damage. All records, papers, and correspondence must be safeguarded for their return to the office after work at home ends.

Employers should tell employees that if they become aware of a virus or malware on the work system, they must immediately inform the company.

When an employee is conducting work at home, the employee’s actions are within the course and scope of his/her employment and the employer’s liability is the same as if at a regular work location. Therefore, employees who work at home must keep their  work area in a businesslike manner, and as clean and free from hazards as in the regular office. Work-related accidents shall be reported to the supervisor and the company should report those to the appropriate workers comp insurer.

In addition, the employee should also have lighting that is conducive to a good work environment. If possible, the home workspace also should be out of the home high traffic areas, especially if other members of the family are present during working hours.

Effective Communication:

Employers should make it clear that employees cannot rely solely on using texts to communicate and that there are, and should be, multiple forms of communication in place. Businesses should encourage remote workers to keep their phones charged and close at hand. Employers need to make available and require employees to attend regular meetings via video conferencing software that is supplied by the business. These employees need to understand that phone calls, emails, and meetings still have to be part of their workday just as they are in the company offices. If there is a  failure to make sure there is open communication then collaboration and good working relationships will become more difficult.

The “sample” Work at Home Policy begins below. You can adjust the sample policy as needed. Call me with questions or if you need help.

Jeffrey M. Epstein
Email: epstein@lubkawhite.com
Tel: (626) 301-0700
Cell: (213) 703-7999
Fax: (626) 301-0200

“SAMPLE” WORK AT HOME POLICY

This work at home policy is applicable during the coronavirus situation and at any time you are authorized to work at home.

Existing Employee Handbooks, Policies and General Approach:

Be aware that the existing employee handbook and policies of the business remain in effect.  When working at home you need to maintain a business-like atmosphere so that your work product reflects a professional approach. If there are young children at home, you should arrange, as much as possible, for others to care for the children during work hours.

Work Hours:

You should maintain the same work hours at home as you would in the office. You are required to follow the company policy of taking your usual amount of lunch time off (but not less than one-half hour) and two ten-minute break times – one before noon and one after 2:00 pm. You cannot do any work at all during lunch and break times. As always, the lunch time off is not paid time and does not count as work time towards you work hours.

Employees cannot work overtime hours without the prior written approval of their supervisor. Be aware that you can face discipline for working overtime without permission.

All employees must keep accurate time records showing the start time, lunch break and end time each workday. The company will supply you with, and you are required to use, choose the one you as the employer want to use  a printed form that is filled in by you in ink, signed and turned in at the end of each week or a program on the computer that has the ability to save the information so that hard copies can be printed and turned in weekly.

Expenses:

The company will cover certain expenses for working at home. The company will provide the following equipment for you to use at home: put whatever equipment, if any, you will provide the employee here

The company will pay the following expenses used for your work at home: here are some examples but you should fill in the ones that are applicable and the percentages that you want to pay

            Personal cell phone monthly bill:  50%

            Office supplies used for work:      100%

            Internet connection monthly bill:   33%

You must turn in copies of your monthly bills to get reimbursement and the actual bills for any office supplies purchased.

Those expenses you incur which are necessary business expenses beyond those anticipated above in the policy should be submitted in accordance with the company’s existing business expense reimbursement policy. The company is not responsible for incidental costs such as home mortgages, rent or utilities.

Equipment:

Employees may not use company provided equipment or use or duplicate software for personal use. You may not allow non-employee persons to use company provided equipment or software. You are required to use the equipment properly and to safeguard all equipment supplied by the company. The business can use the following to increase security: The company will provide you with a cloud service to conduct work from home.

Maintenance of company supplied equipment can only be performed by employer authorized entities, and will be at the company’s expense as long as the equipment was not abused by the employee.

The company will repair or replace, if practical, lost, damaged, or stolen employer equipment, provided the employee has taken appropriate precautions to safeguard the equipment. If the employee is using personal computer equipment for work at home, the hardware and software must be compatible with the company’s configuration.

Work Assignments:

All employees must understand that just like working in the “regular” office for work assignments supervisors and employees must discuss and understand what is expected to be produced during work at home and when assignments are due. Supervisors and employees must also arrange when to have regular contact with each other during the workday. Employees are expected to complete their assignments on time and professionally, just as you are at the regular workplace.

Safety and Security:

Passwords should not be stored on employee-owned equipment, if possible, and security measures must be initiated whenever the computer is left unattended. Do not write down passwords as this can lead to security breaches. Employees are expected to follow all appropriate company rules and regulations regarding security and confidentiality of information, including computer data and file security.

You must take steps to protect records and data from unauthorized disclosure or damage. All records, papers, and correspondence must be safeguarded for their return to the office after work at home ends. If you become aware that a virus or malware may be infecting the work system, then you must immediately inform the company.

When an employee is conducting work at home, the employee’s actions are within the course and scope of his/her employment with the company. Employees who work at home must keep their work area in a businesslike manner, and as clean and free from hazards as in the regular office. Work-related accidents shall be reported to the supervisor immediately.

In addition, you should also have lighting that is conducive to a good work environment. If possible, the home workspace also should be out of the home high traffic areas, especially if other members of the family are present during working hours.

Effective Communication:

Employees cannot rely solely on using texts to communicate and there are multiple forms of communication in place. Employees should keep their cell phones charged and close at hand. You are required to attend regular meetings via video conferencing software. Employees will be supplied the video conferencing software to use by the company and will be given notice of scheduled video conferences.

You must understand that phone calls, emails, and meetings still have to be part of their workday just as they are in the company offices. There must be open communication so collaboration and good working relationships will not become more difficult.

ACKOWLEDGMENT

I have read, understood and agree to follow the Work at Home Policy stated above.

Dated:___________                           _____________________________________________

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