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Employers who are seeking to modernize their workforce may consider telecommuting or working from home as an option that adds flexibility to the workplace and has the potential to decrease operating costs. These types of arrangements can be beneficial for both employers and employees; however, before giving employees the green light to work from home, employers should carefully consider whether it is the right move for their workplace and, if so, should consider creating a telecommuting policy that addresses the unique issues that can arise with this increasingly popular working arrangement. Below are some key issues to consider when preparing a telecommuting policy:

1- Preliminary Eligibility

When creating a telecommuting policy, employers should consider whether there ought to be any preliminary eligibility criteria that employees must meet in order to telecommute. These might include: position types, performance levels, or home office specifications. Setting out objective eligibility requirements upfront can help avoid confusion later on.

2.  Performance of Work

Work expectations should also be clearly set out in a telecommuting policy to avoid any uncertainty. For example, if an employee who works from home will still be required to work a specific shift with clear start and end times, that should be set out clearly in the policy. If there is flexibility on start/end times, that can be set out as well but employers may wish to reiterate the expected number of hours employees are required to work each day.

3. Insurance and Liability

To avoid any confusion, employers should consider addressing any insurance requirements. It may be worth setting out any specification for home insurance coverage, how theft or damage to company property will be handled, and responsibility for any injuries to third parties within the workspace.

4. Depeneant Care

Telecommuting arrangements can offer employees some flexibility in caring for dependents who require care during working hours for a short period of time, for example due to an acute illness or injury. However, employers should consider whether telecommuting arrangements are appropriate for employees who intend to care for dependents for an extended period of time.  Restrictions on providing dependent care while telecommuting can be included in the telecommuting policy. However, employers should consider the specific circumstances of employees, as some may require accommodation in accordance with the Human Rights Code.  

5 – Changes and Cancellations

A telecommuting policy should contemplate how and when a telecommuting arrangement can be cancelled or amended. Including a statement that any telecommuting arrangements can be cancelled or changed at any time reiterates that the arrangement is a benefit and not a right. It may also mitigate the risk that cancelling or changing a telecommuting arrangement will be viewed as making a fundamental change to the employment relationship.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only, and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact any of SOM LLP’s lawyer’s by email or telephone.