This blog was written by Rochele Bertasso, HR Business Partner at Helpside.
Companies that haven’t offered work from home opportunities in the past are now considering if new ways to work are possible within their organizations. The ability to work from home can be a significant benefit to both employers and employees, especially with the ever looming possibility of COVID related work disruptions. While work from home options can provide more flexibility and productivity at times, the sudden increase in remote workers has also come with a tidal wave of employee policy and employment law issues to work through.
Many companies that provide work from home options also want to ensure that employees are approved to do so prior to making any changes to their work location. There are legitimate reasons for this including information security concerns, evaluating whether the employee and their position are eligible for a work from home option, setting appropriate work expectations, preventing safety and workers’ compensation issues, and others. So, what do you do if an employee decides to work from home without approval? Here are some ways to address this employee issue:
Check Your Policy
Make sure you have a clear work from home policy. Even if you only allow employees to work from home occasionally, having a clear policy in place can eliminate confusion and clarify expectations. If employees must gain approval prior to working from home, be sure to specify that process in your policy. You may also decide to have your employees sign a work from home agreement which may provide greater detail in terms of what is expected. You may want to consider including things like performance tracking and accountability or adding a signed authorization to recover the cost of damaged or lost company property. Specifying expectations and setting clear policies will help reduce confusion and frustration.
Address the Employee
If after putting a policy into place employees are still working from home without permission, you will want to address them on an individual basis. The discussion should involve explaining to the employee the policy they violated, how that is harmful to the company, and what will happen if the employee continues to violate company policies. After the conversation, be sure to take time to document the interaction. You might even consider sending an email follow up reiterating the conversation with the employee and keep that as part of the record.
Employees that continue to work from home without permission should be dealt with quickly. Carry out whatever discipline you decided on in your previous meeting. Remind your employee of the agreement you made previously as you carry out the disciplinary action. Make sure to document the conversation in writing and be clear about what will happen (further discipline or termination) if the behavior continues.
Many employers ask whether they have to pay employees for unauthorized work. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is clear on this matter and requires employers to pay employees for performing any work for the organization, even without approval. Setting appropriate expectations through a clear company policy and then following a progressive discipline process if the policy is not followed is the best way to handle this type of situation. You cannot simply choose not to pay an employee if they performed work without your approval.