May 14, 2013

It is becoming more common for employees to do at least some of their regular work from home instead of going in to the office. Advancements in technology have made it possible for a worker to be connected to the office by telephone, smartphone, or computer. Telework arrangements can provide significant advantages, such as flexibility, increased productivity and lower facility costs. However, employers and unions should be aware of the risks associated with such arrangements. Join Lancaster’s panel of experts as they discuss the best ways to implement a telework arrangement and the legal principles relevant to issues that may arise. Issues to be discussed include:

    • Implementing telework: What is telecommuting or telework? What jobs are most appropriate for telework? What are the benefits and challenges of setting up a telework arrangement? How can a telecommuting employee’s productivity be measured? Who is responsible for providing the supplies (paper, pens, computer, etc.) at the telework place? What factors should employers consider when drafting telework policies? What should be included in a telework policy? What factors should employers consider when drafting employment contracts for teleworkers? In unionized workplaces, what is the role of the union when implementing a telework arrangement?
    • Overtime claims: What must a telework employee show to prove overtime claims? Do rights to overtime, break time, and vacation time found in employment standards legislation apply to telework employees? If employees are routinely working from home in addition to regular hours at the office, does this lead to overtime claims? Is there anything that employers can do to protect against such overtime claims? Is checking e-mail from home work? If so, are employers going to see more overtime claims related to this?
    • Privacy and security: Do employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in information contained on employer owned devices? Will personal information stored on teleworkers’ smart phones or computers attract greater protection than information stored on computers that do not leave the employer’s workplace? Can employers monitor employees’ home workspaces? How can employers protect confidential information contained on employees’ home computers?
    • Health and safety: How can employers ensure the health and safety of employees who work from home? Do Occupational Health and Safety laws apply to telework arrangements? When are employers liable for employee injuries that occur when working from home? What laws apply when the employee works in a different province or country from his or her employer?
    • Human rights issues: Is working from home a reasonable accommodation for a disability? For family status constraints? In order for working from home to be a reasonable accommodation, must the employer supply all the necessary technology? Is setting and adhering to a policy prohibiting work from home discrimination? When does allowing employees to work from home amount to undue hardship? When might ordering a telecommuting employee back into the office expose an employer to a discrimination or constructive dismissal claim?