Legal Considerations for Employers Managing Remote Workers and Digital Teams

by Progressive Legal 2nd of March, 2023
Legal Considerations for Employers Managing Remote Workers and Digital Teams
Legal Considerations for Employers Managing Remote Workers and Digital Teams

Working from home is becoming more and more popular. It is a trend that has been growing over the past few years, although more so out of necessity then by choice. There are many reasons why people and businesses are choosing to work from home, including: flexibility in hours, better commutes, improved work/life balance, and the improvements in digital communications that facilitate this.

COVID has undoubtedly led to increased remote working for most businesses. The "new normal" has pushed for flexibility, even in the face of major disruptions. The challenges that come with managing remote staff include maintaining the same levels of productivity that occur when you work face-to-face, ensuring as an employer the same standards and terms of employment, and putting in place systems, processes, and check-ins to manage well-being. 

This was definitely more challenging for employers who were not used to managing remote staff or digital teams. This trend is set to continue into 2023, so if you are having difficulty in adjusting to the digital office or are unsure of your legal obligations, this article aims to help.

 Here's a short guide for employer’s legal requirements when it comes to managing remote workers.  

1. Ensure access to technology, and that digital training is in accordance with cybersecurity standards and confidentiality


Not everyone has the same tech skill. Training, support, and equipment must be provided to remote employees to ensure task completion and high cybersecurity standards. Providing company phones, computers and secured emails are good ways of doing this. Encrypting confidential info is essential, especially if employees are working from home. 

Use two factor authentication (2FA) for private logins and restrict emails to internal addresses to protect sensitive or confidential data. All this will help safeguard information if any device is compromised and prevent errors of unauthorised viewing of sensitive data. 


2. Make sure all remote workers have a safe and healthy working environment


As an employer, remember you still have a duty of care of your employees. That's hard to monitor when they're remote. You should do your best to check on employees and ensure they are working in conditions that are equally safe and comfortable to that of the office workspace. Ensure safety and providing ergonomic chair, mouse and set-up is common practice. 

Keep an eye out for signs of poor mental well-being like decreased engagement with digital communication, or not responding to work matters for extended periods. Engage employees with socialization and regular communication as much as you can. 



3. Limit remote workers to 8-hour workday


Remote workers are entitled to the same working hour restrictions and reliefs as regular employees. If your employees are subject to longer working hours, it could result in the need for special compensation. The legal limit of working hours in NSW is set at 38 hrs weekly. Any work provided over this 38-hour weekly cap would require employers to pay at least 1.5 times an employee’s hourly rate. Or in lieu of overtime pay, employers are obligated to offer time off.  


4. Provide appropriate leave entitlements and benefits. You also want to avoid burn-out

Employers must respect & fulfill legal requirements for remote workers (e.g. leave entitlements, benefits, & superannuation) the same as in-office workers, incl. vacation time, sick pay, parental leave, & protection from unfair dismissal. Employers must also maintain regular office policies & resources for remote workers experiencing stress.

5. Make sure all remote workers are paid their fair wages on time. 


Australia's minimum wage is $19.84/hr and applies to both remote and in-office workers. 

Employers must comply with the Fair Work Act and ensure remote workers receive the same entitlements, such as overtime, public holidays, etc. as in-office workers. Per the National Employment Standards, remote workers must be paid for any work done on public holidays. Check relevant awards as well to ensure compliance. 


Other considerations: 


Consider legal requirements and provide guidance for employees working from home, such as tips for maintaining a work/life balance and up-to-date insurance policies. Also, use the ATO's simplified method for calculating additional expenses, and utilize collaboration tools for digital communication like Monday, Asana, or Slack.

 A 'Working From Home Policy' is a really good idea as well to set the standards for conduct and reporting, confidentiality, security and laptop use etc.

Tags: legal 2023 small business covid-19