Last week, Alberta entered Step 2 of lifting its public health measures. As a result, many workplaces have now implemented a return-to-work plan for remote workers to return to the office or physical workplace in the coming weeks. Employers who want to consider whether to recall remotely working employees can review our blog on their legal authority to do so here.
Although mandatory work-from-home requirements are now lifted in Alberta, there are good reasons for employers to consider offering employees hybrid work arrangements, or in some cases event permanent remote options.
What is a hybrid or remote work policy?
Post-pandemic, the general trend is and will continue to be for more workplaces to offer flexible working arrangements, including both hybrid and remote working options. A hybrid work policy is a policy that outlines how, where and when employees work their jobs, both on-site/in-office and remotely. A remote work policy specifically addresses an employee’s ability to do his or her work remotely. Some of the items included in a hybrid work policy include, for example:
- whether the policy is temporary or permanent;
- what employees are eligible for hybrid or remote working arrangements (e.g. if there are certain criteria for an employee to meet, if it will only be offered to full time employees, or only offered for certain positions);
- what days an employee may work remotely (and how different employees or groups of employees will be scheduled for on-site attendance in a hybrid schedule);
- what hours a remote employee is expected to work;
- how productivity will be measured; and
- IT and cybersecurity.
In some instances, there will be employees who would like to continue working remotely or have the option of remote work for certain days of the week. Offering such arrangements will almost certainly prove to correlate to higher job satisfaction and employee retention in certain circumstances. We are seeing many employees who would prefer a hybrid working model to returning to the office on a full-time basis, and employers should consider their industry competitors to determine whether their policies are aligned with what arrangements their competitors are offering.
There are also benefits to be derived by employers offering hybrid or remote work arrangements, including better work-life balance for their employees, no commuting, increased productivity, and reduced costs.
Implementing new or revised policies for existing employees
Employers will want to keep in mind that implementing new or revised work policies for existing employees, or amending existing employment agreements, will require sign-off from employees to such revisions or additional policies. We highly recommend that employers considering this consult an experienced employment lawyer for legal advice to ensure that such new or revised policies are valid and enforceable for their workplace.
Other considerations and policies related to hybrid work arrangements
Employers wanting to offer hybrid work arrangements, or to formally introduce a hybrid or remote work policy for their employees, will also want to consider related employment and occupational health and safety (“OHS”) issues. For example, employers introducing a hybrid work policy will likely downsize office space and institute desk or office sharing arrangements for employees who are alternating in-office days. Such arrangements will necessitate specific health and safety measures and policies, on issues such as health screening, personal protective equipment, physical distancing, and sanitizing.
Employers will also want to consider updating their IT, security (including cybersecurity), and confidentiality policies, to address hybrid and remote working arrangements.
Accommodation measures for remote working arrangements
Considering the availability of hybrid and remote work arrangements will also help employers address employees who require legitimate accommodation measures and need to continue working from home. Such accommodation will need to be compliant with human rights laws.
CARSCALLEN LLP’S EMPLOYMENT, LABOUR AND HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERTISE
Whether you are an employee or an employer, Carscallen’s experienced team of Employment, Labour and Human Rights lawyers can assist you. Our lawyers specialize in practical, individualized advice to help you understand your rights, duties and responsibilities as an employer or an employee. Our team of lawyers provide tailored, proactive advice to help successfully navigate every stage of the employment relationship. We have the legal expertise to help minimize problems and disputes before they happen, as well as the ability to resolve conflict quickly and constructively when it arises.
If you are an employer or employee and have any question about the legal issues associated with creating a hybrid or remote work policy for your workplace, or any other employment-law questions, please contact any member of our Employment, Labour and Human Rights team.*This update is intended for general information only on the subject matter and is not to be taken as legal advice.