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Compliance Tool: Model Policy on Telecommuting & Remote Work

by | Nov 25, 2022

It’s important to have a clear policy in place for approving remote work requests and ensuring employees remain productive.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, labs and other workplaces found that some jobs could be done just as effectively from home. However, while most employees are unlikely to abuse the privilege of remote work, it’s important to have a clear policy in place for approving remote work requests and ensuring employees remain productive. Here’s a template you can adapt based on your lab’s particular circumstances.

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Telecommuting & Remote Work Arrangements

1. POLICY

ABC Laboratories will allow employees to work remotely from home or other locations away from the physical workplace (telecommute), provided that such arrangements are determined to be appropriate, conducive to productivity, safe, and in accordance with the terms of this Policy.

Telecommuting is a privilege, not a right, that ABC Laboratories may revoke at any time and for any reason.

Individual telecommuting arrangements must be applied for and approved in advance in accordance with the procedures set forth in this Policy. When and if ABC Laboratories approves a proposed telecommunication arrangement, employees must comply with all requirements set forth in this Policy to retain their telecommuting privileges.

2. PURPOSE

The purpose of this Policy is to establish clear and fair policies, procedures, and criteria for the application, approval, management, monitoring, and termination of telecommuting arrangements.

3. ADVANCE APPROVAL REQUIRED

The approval of each telecommuting arrangement will be made on a case-by-case basis at the sole discretion of ABC Laboratories management following the criteria set forth below. All departments must create and publish their approval criteria for telecommuting requests and must also periodically evaluate existing telecommuting arrangements to determine that they meet the terms and conditions of this Policy and individual Telecommuting Agreement and are contributing to the success of ABC Laboratories.

4. CRITERIA FOR APPROVAL

Before approving requests from employees to telecommute, whether for some or all of the regular workweek, all managers must ensure that the following conditions are met:

  • The nature of the work to be performed at the telecommuting place is operationally feasible;
  • The overall quality and quantity of work carried out in the designated workplace will be sustained by the telecommuter in the telecommuting place;
  • The work done at the telecommuting place will be performed cost effectively;
  • The terms and conditions of employment, provisions of relevant collective agreements, and the application of existing legislation and ABC Laboratories policies and procedures will continue to apply in telecommuting situations; and
  • Product quality and client and patient service will not in any way be compromised by the telecommuting arrangement.

5. TELECOMMUTING AGREEMENT REQUIRED

The details of the particular telecommuting arrangement must be: (i) Discussed and agreed upon between the employee participating in the telecommuting situation and the supervisor; and ii) Put in writing in an agreement between ABC Laboratories and the employee (Telecommuting Agreement), which includes, at a minimum:

  • A statement noting that the arrangement may be terminated by ABC Laboratories at any time and for any reason;
  • The duration of the arrangement;
  • The specific days the employee will telecommute;
  • The hours of work;
  • Whether the arrangement is regular or episodic;
  • The telecommuter’s duty to submit a weekly log documenting hours worked, in accordance with the terms of the Telecommuting Agreement;
  • The location from which the telecommuter will work;
  • Where telecommuting is to take place in a location outside the US:
    • A general statement that the employee may work overseas that does not list the name of any particular country;
    • The employee’s acknowledgement that the US is the sole place of employment;
    • The employee’s agreement to return to the US by a fixed date no later than three months after the overseas arrangement begins;
    • The employee’s acknowledgement that failure to return by the specified date will constitute a resignation of employment, except where the delay is due to causes or circumstances beyond the employee’s reasonable control;
  • The telecommuting location, work objectives, and expected results;
  • The employee’s duty to notify and obtain the express written permission of ABC Laboratories to extend the arrangement or continue telecommuting from a different location;
  • Language addressing issues of liability (e.g., personal and equipment);
  • Allocation of responsibility for utilities, insurance, and other costs associated with telecommuting;
  • Allocation of occupational safety and health responsibilities; and
  • The employee’s duty to comply with the Agreement, applicable laws, and ABC Laboratories’ policies, rules, and procedures.

6. WORK COMPUTER EQUIPMENT & TECHNOLOGY

The selection of appropriate equipment and electronic network requirements for any telecommuting arrangement will be decided on a case-by-case basis and written into the Telecommuting Agreement before a telecommuting arrangement takes effect. The following guidelines will apply:

  • Where ABC Laboratories provides the equipment, it will assume the responsibility for normal maintenance and repair;
  • If the employee proposes to telecommute using his/her own equipment, he/she is responsible for the maintenance and repair unless otherwise agreed to by ABC Laboratories;
  • Employees who telecommute are responsible for:
    • The costs of maintaining the telecommuting workplace (e.g., insurance, heat);
    • Ensuring that a telecommuting arrangement is in accordance with the municipal zoning regulations and in accordance with the employee's residential lease, if applicable;
    • Adequately equipping the telecommuting workplace in compliance with all applicable health and safety standards (subject to Section 8 below);
    • Complying with all the terms and conditions of employment, relevant collective agreements, legislation, and ABC Laboratories’ policies and procedures (e.g., policies on privacy, harassment, confidentiality, internet, and email use) at the telecommuting workplace; and
    • Using supplies, equipment, technology, and electronic networks (e.g., telephones, computers, laptops, etc.) belonging to ABC Laboratories for work-related purposes only, unless otherwise authorized in writing by the supervisor.

7. TELECOMMUTER ACCOUNTABILITY & MONITORING

ABC Laboratories also reserves the right to conduct evaluations of telecommuting arrangements on a periodic basis as it sees fit.

7.1 Employee’s Consent to Use of Monitoring Technology

In consideration for being allowed to work from home or another remote location, employees acknowledge and agree that ABC Laboratories may use software applications and other forms of monitoring technology (“monitoring technology”) in accordance with the rules set forth below.

7.2 Purposes for Which Monitoring Technology Will Be Used

ABC Laboratories will use monitoring technology for the sole purpose of:

  • Ensuring telecommuters’ health and safety in accordance with ABC Laboratories’ obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH) and other applicable laws;
  • Verifying that telecommuters are meeting expectations for employee availability, attendance, productivity, engagement, and dress code, as set forth in the Telecommuter Agreement;
  •  Documenting work hours, overtime, breaks, and other records ABC Laboratories is required to maintain under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state employment standards laws; and
  • Ensuring the confidentiality of its proprietary business information and trade secrets.

7.3 Types of Monitoring Technology to Be Used

ABC Laboratories will use the following monitoring technology to collect the information provided for in this Policy: [List technology and how it works]

7.4 Information Collected

ABC Laboratories will use the monitoring technology to collect the following information: [List each kind of information to be collected]

7.5 Use of Information Collected

ABC Laboratories will collect only the minimum amount and type of information it reasonably needs to accomplish the purposes set forth in Section 7.2 above. [list specific applications]

7.6 Confidentiality

ABC Laboratories will keep the information it uses monitoring technology to collect and disclose it only to the telecommuter’s supervisor, manager, and others authorized to access and use the information for purposes of carrying out their respective roles and responsibilities under the Telecommuting Agreement and where disclosure is required under applicable laws and standards.

8. TELECOMMUTER HOME OFFICE SAFETY GROUND RULES

Employees approved to telecommute are responsible for working safely. ABC Laboratories reserves the right to deny an employee the opportunity to telecommute or revoke an existing telecommuting arrangement with an employee for failure to comply with the health and safety obligations set forth below.

8.1 Home Workspace Hazard Assessment

Employees must designate an area or room where they intend to establish and maintain their workspace. ABC Laboratories must approve the designated workspace as part of the process for approving the overall telecommuting arrangement. In deciding whether to provide its approval, ABC Laboratories will send a representative to conduct an on-site inspection of the workspace and complete the Home Workspace Hazard Assessment Inspection Checklist (attached to this Policy as Attachment A) to verify that it is:

  • Appropriate for the work;
  • Well lit;
  • Properly ventilated;
  • Free of obstructions and trip and fall hazards;
  • Equipped with appropriate first aid supplies and equipment;
  • Free of mold, biohazards, and other hazardous materials;
  • Free of electrical hazards;
  • Secure;
  • Ergonomically safe; and
  • Compliant with applicable fire and building codes.

Alternative [Instead of a site inspection, you can do a virtual inspection using videotape and/or detailed photos and a floor plan of the space that the employee provides.]

8.2 Safety Training

After a telecommuting arrangement is approved, but before it can begin, an ABC Laboratories supervisor or other qualified person will train the employee how to work safely from home, covering, at a minimum:

  • Safe use of furnishings and equipment;
  • Fire and electrical hazards;
  • Hazardous products;
  • Ergonomic safety;
  • Emergency evacuation and communications;
  • Hygiene and housekeeping; and
  • Inspection and incident reporting procedures.

Failure to successfully complete this training will be grounds for revoking approval of the telecommuting arrangement.

8.3 Safety Inspections of Home Office Site

After the telecommuting arrangement begins, the employee will give an ABC Laboratories representative access to the site to perform regular inspections [specify interval]. ABC Laboratories also reserves the right to perform site inspections after injuries, illnesses, incidents, complaints, or other indications that hazards may be present, as well as in response to significant changes to the workspace design, configuration, furnishings, equipment, conditions, or uses.

8.4 Site Inspection Procedures

All site inspections will be performed with the employee’s consent by a properly authorized supervisor, member of the workplace joint health and safety committee, or other representative following ABC Laboratories inspection protocols. The employee will receive at least 48 hours’ notice of the inspection at a mutually agreeable time. The inspector will notify the employee of the inspection results and, if necessary, instruct the employee to take actions to correct any health and safety problems. ABC Laboratories reserves the right to perform follow-up inspections of the workspace to ensure identified problems are fixed and corrective measures properly implemented.

8.5 Consequences of Failed Inspections

The following will be grounds for immediate termination of the telecommuting arrangement:

  • Repeated or significant health and safety violations;
  • The employee’s failure to implement the required corrective actions; and/or
  • The employee’s obstruction of or unreasonable refusal to undergo inspection.

8.6 Emergency Evacuation & Communication

Employees must work with their supervisors to create an appropriate and effective emergency evacuation plan for the home workspace and test it successfully before the telecommuting arrangement can begin. ABC Laboratories will ensure that employees have radio, telephonic, or other electronic communication equipment necessary to call for help in case of an emergency. ABC Laboratories will test the equipment and ensure the employee knows how to use it. Each side will furnish complete emergency contact information to the other.

8.7 Safe Work Procedures

Employees working from home must follow safe work practices and maintain the home workspace in a safe condition, free from hazards and other dangers. Where necessary, ABC Laboratories will develop and implement a written procedure for checking the well-being of a telecommuter that may include:

  • Specification of required time intervals between checks;
  • Procedures to follow in case the telecommuter cannot be contacted, including provisions for emergency rescue;
  • Designation of a contact person responsible for establishing contact with the telecommuter at predetermined intervals and recording the results in a log;
  • The requirement that a check be performed at the end of the telecommuter’s work shift.

8.9 Injury/Incident Reporting & Investigation

Employees who telecommute must promptly report any emergency or work-related injury, illness, or incident that occurs in their home workspace to their supervisor just as they would if they were working at ABC Laboratories facilities. Employees recognize and agree that ABC Laboratories has a right to perform an immediate investigation at the home site where the injury or incident occurred in accordance with ABC Laboratories’ OSHA Incident Investigation and Reporting policies and procedures.

9. TERMINATION OF ARRANGEMENT

ABC Laboratories reserves the right to terminate a telecommuting arrangement at any time and for any reason, with reasonable notice to the employee. Upon termination of the telecommuting arrangement and/or the employee’s employment, for any reason, the employee must immediately return all files and equipment to ABC Laboratories.

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EMPLOYEE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND CONSENT

I hereby acknowledge that I have read and understood and consent to the collection, use, and disclosure of my personal information by ABC Laboratories to monitor my health, safety, and job performance as a condition for being permitted to work from home as provided for in the Telecommuter Agreement and that telecommuting is a privilege that ABC Laboratories reserves the right to terminate at any time and for any reason at its sole discretion.

Employee Name: __________________________________

Date: _________________________

Signature: _______________________________________

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