[Guest Post] COVID-19: WORK FROM HOME & LEGAL ISSUES by Tanuj Raje #Corona&Law Series

The whole world is dealing with COVID-19 Pandemic it has changed everything from how we meet and greet to how we live and work. To increase the importance of social distancing, offices around the globe are empty today the working environment around the world is suddenly being reinvented the dining room tables have become de facto offices for many it has led to the biggest number of employees around the globe to work from their homes. What demonetization did to digital payments, corona may end up doing for the remote work. While working from home consist of several legal issues that must be taken into consideration.

1) Establishing Work from Home Policies
Employers should establish a policy that allows employees to work from home as a response to corona pandemic. The policy can be a stand-alone document or even an e-mail addressed to those who will be offered work from home opportunity the policy should be clearly stated to them. Not all employees’ roles can be performed from home so eligibility criteria should be developed that who will be allowed to work from home, employers expected hours of works. Meal and other break periods. Employers must be careful in selecting who is eligible to work from home and should not discriminate against employees on the basis of their race, gender, age or other legally protected characteristics. The expectation and boundaries around work from
home must be cleared the employees should try to give the best output from their work as they would have given in their regular offices.
2) Payment of employees (Work from Home)
Employees must be paid for the time they are working from home Duties of record keeping is a healthy practice there should be a login and logout record of how much time did the employee performed his duties moreover extra money should be paid to them for their overtime work performance as it should have been given at the office. If employees are not able to perform their work for all or part of the day without any sufficient cause then the employer, in certain instances, can deduct full or partial day from their salary giving them the sufficient cause.
Employers should inquire about state and local laws that may require employers to provide paid or unpaid leave to employees.
3) Monitoring of Productivity and Communications
Monitoring of employees should be done within the boundaries of established policies of the company. Employer monitoring the work checking email and other systems is generally permitted but there must be a valid business purpose for doing so and employees must not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in using the employer’s system.
Employers likely will need to remain flexible in their expectations. While working from home employees may not have dedicated work areas in their homes and may face some distractions in terms of
timeliness of execution of performing regular tasks and other disruptions of ordinary work functions (e.g., children interrupting parents during telephone calls and online meetings). The employer's task must be clearly defined and proper and reasonable deadlines must be given to them except certain circumstances that may arise during their work in which there is an urgent need to perform the particular task.
4) Cyber Crimes and Security Issues
The cyber security standards of the home as compared to office enterprises are very weak and are not safe from a security point of view which gives hackers a great chance to hack the crucial data of the companies and other institutions.
The Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-which is the national agency to combat cyber threats and attacks which also guard the cyberspace, said that usage of the digital application can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which include leakage of sensitive office information to cybercriminals moreover there is no protection of privacy of the employees as well. Organizations have allowed their staff to work from home to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). But for online meetings and discussions the security Online communication platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Teams for Education, Slack, and WebEx, etc; are being used widely so hackers are targeting it and due to lack of security standards there succeeding in their criminal activities.
The employers should provide various safety methods and guidelines to employees to save themselves from these kinds of issues and It is the employer responsibility to provide the employees with secured networks. It is always the best idea that companies should provide Virtual Private Network (VPN) where data is encrypted and which
can be accessed by works sitting at the home. While establishing work from home policies clear conditions and circumstances must be laid to use Public Wi-Fi.
5) Work-From-Home and Expense Reimbursement
Employers should attempt to provide the resources employees need to work from home effectively using company-provided equipment, like computers and telephones. Where that is not possible, employers should evaluate the personal tools and equipment the employee is required to use on the employer’s behalf and determine whether and to what extent reimbursement for associated expenses may be necessary.
It is necessary that during this pandemic situation we should be safe and healthy and follow the principals of Social distancing but at the same time work from home is also necessary proper employment policies and guidelines should be made and regulated so that work from home can be performed efficiently without any hindrances and proper care of employees must be done by employers and at the same time employees are also required to perform their work by giving maximum outputs.

Read another post on COVID-19 and Cyber Crimes by the same author

The Author, Tanuj Raje, is a law student at Amity Law School, Noida and he can be reached at t[email protected]

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  1. Time management & digital miscommunications are the challenging aspects of working from home. It's informative how you interwoven this with insight on legal issues. Good piece of work 😊