For many employees, the option of working from home full-time or in a hybrid environment is highly appealing. Nonetheless, it presents difficulties for employers that may result in legal complications and disputes. We explore some of these potential issues below.
Ensuring safe workspaces
Workplace accidents and injuries can happen in any industry and any workplace – even in the comfort of someone’s home. And according to WorkSafeBC, the BC Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation will still apply to remote workers. That is, employees continue to have a claim to worker’s compensation benefits if they are injured working remotely. However, the worker must have sustained the injury in the course of their employment.
In other words, worker’s compensation may cover injuries for someone who trips walking downstairs to take a work call, but not for someone who falls down the stairs bringing clothes to the laundry room on their break.
Thus, employers should talk to workers about tips for keeping a safe work environment if they work remotely. A remote work policy with provisions around health and safety will generally help to ensure a consistent approach in the workplace. And if an accident does occur, employees must be sure to document the details of the incident accurately and notify employers right away, as they would in a typical workplace environment.
Employers’ legal responsibilities
When employment relationships cross provincial or national borders, it may not be clear what responsibilities employers have in terms of things like:
- Providing benefits
- Licensing requirements
- Wage and hour rules
- Contractual duties and enforceability
In general, employers are required to comply with the laws in the location in which the employee is working, even if the employer is located elsewhere. Because so many laws vary between jurisdictions, knowing where an employee is working from is vital. If any questions or complications arise, speaking with a lawyer is recommended.
Keeping information secure
Protecting sensitive information is a challenge even when everyone works in the same location; spread people across Canada or the world, and the potential for losses or breaches increases considerably.
Employers should have reliable, effective measures in place to protect valuable data, whether it is in digital or physical form. Confidentiality agreements can also be worth considering. Further, employers should provide thorough and ongoing training to ensure employees know how to store and send protected information safely. Providing company-approved devices and services to workers may be wise.
Overcoming these challenges and preventing conflicts is possible with proper planning and awareness. Failing to address these remote work issues properly can have serious consequences for any British Columbia employer or employee.