Until recently, telework was considered a privilege, granted under certain conditions.
In general, employers were reluctant to implement this type of work, for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Difficulty in controlling their employees’ work performance;
- The risks associated with possible breaches of confidentiality;
- Difficulty in productively bringing employees together for consultation or training;
- Occupational health and safety issues;
- Issues that may arise from the safety of computer data that is exchanged, particularly through the use of virtual platforms (e.g. Zoom, etc.).
Since the pandemic, however, telework has become necessary for many employers. In order to continue some of their activities, many employers have had no choice but to quickly reorganize their activities and invest in order to make telework as efficient as possible.
In addition, telework, which was believed to be temporary, could continue for several months. For their own various reasons, some employers are considering continuing part of their operations through telework for an extended period of time, even when they would no longer be required to do so.
However, since telework has often been implemented in a context of emergency and improvisation, many employers have still not adopted a policy governing telework, while others have one that is no longer adapted to the new reality.
It is in this context that we would like to stress the importance of adopting a clear policy regarding telework within your company in order to clearly define the employer’s and employees’ respective obligations and responsibilities.
Take, for instance, the following examples:
- Is the layout of the employee’s workspace within his or her residence adequate, thus allowing the prevention of occupational injuries?
- How can the employer ensure that the employee’s work environment is ergonomic, knowing that the employee has a right to privacy inside his or her home?
- Does the employer have to pay the employee for the costs incurred by him or her in connection with the use of the Internet or his or her telephone?
- Can the employer require the employee to have insurance that covers property made available by the employer for the performance of his or her work?
- How do you ensure that the confidential company data that is used by the employee in the course of his or her work is not accessible to all members of the household?
A number of other elements should be covered by a telework policy, including:
- The way the performance of work is supervised;
- The manner in which the supervisor shall carry out spot checks;
- The purchase of furniture or equipment;
- That the work environment must be conducive to the performance of work and must be free of distractions;
- How and when to report technical failures;
- The obligation to remain available and reachable;
- The possibility of requiring the employee to physically return to work on the premises at any time, etc.
In order for employers to benefit from the performance of work to which they are entitled, the regulation of telework therefore implies adopting clear rules that are adapted to the reality of each situation. Otherwise, unfortunately, company performance could be unduly affected.
The upcoming months will be eye-opening about the relevance of maintaining telework, especially for employers who have chosen to reorganize some or all of their business operations in this way.