After sweeping coronavirus lockdowns have shifted protocols and priorities alike, many businesses have had a last-minute embrace of remote working as a safer, alternative to being in the office. Some are even forecasting this is a long term, potentially, normalised part of their business operation. Yet, as a symptom of hasty plans, many overlook their basic obligations to compliance and other tax regulations.
1. Secure a good work-from-home policy
For a more sustainable solution to remote working, and one that will withstand the rigor of compliance, management will have to prepare for, and anticipate, the obstacles of remote working. This will create foundations so that their employees (and the business) can properly flourish – without the slowdowns of poor compliance.
Achieving a vision like this, or heralding a sustainable solution to remote work, means a there needs to be a greater availability of workplace policy than ever before. Management, for example, should anticipate change by reducing risks as they look to transition into more virtual infrastructures for their businesses. There is greater freedom from moving outside of a physical property. But the novelty of remote work still has its weak spots that tend to position business in a state of negligence to basic compliance. The most widespread example is how employees share and store data whilst away from the security of the office, including internet connections and personal devices.
The first step is often foundational: a sustainable work-from-home solution starts with policy that advises on employee guidance, rules, and justifications for working from home. This scheme should be a foremost practical: what are the codes of conduct outside of the office? Will this detail new rules, or update existing ones, merely elaborating on office conduct to extend into any place of where employees work?
This should endeavour to include information about employee roles and define the kinds of activities that can be done outside of the office, along with any limitations and points of contact. This policy is a wise investment that can help to steer employee exceptions by securing a code of conduct for out-of-office work-related activity.
2. Safety guidelines are still a priority
One of the easiest lapses from a large-scale transition out of the office is safety guidance. Employee safety, if compromised, can undermine your business’ productivity.
When working at home, however, safety guidance should still be part of the conversation. It’s practical wisdom for those with home offices that will need a safe and secure environment to thrive and be productive.
It may even be tempting to return to the office, especially for important meetings. This is another reason why your business’ safety guidelines may need revisiting in line with COVID-secure guidance.
3. Identify worker types
The major corporates have become more sympathetic to the so-called ‘gig economy’ for sustained support. Unlike permanent roles, contractors are subject to different standards, and it’s getting favourable attention because it frees up businesses from certain obligations.
Google, for example, recently validated contract work as a competitive tool for companies needing new solutions to the trouble with remote work. Google even defined a compensation package, established competitive wages, and more, in aide of its own operation.
That’s not to suggest that contract work is the only possible future solution, but that different categories of staff-types can open an operation to freedoms from its previous obligations. It also works in reverse, so that a business that fails to understand the contracts of its staff, run the risk of not properly honouring their commitments as employers.
If you hire contractors, or other worker types, as part of your recruitment strategy, then this will shape what compliance means for your business. It may also redefine your tax labilities, especially if contacting out work. Sometimes, especially with the novelty of remote working, there are grey spaces, or uncertainties, regarding the rules and regulations, so research will help navigate blind spots.
4. Professional regulations need upgrading
Industries are scrutinised by third-party regulators, especially if it’s enforceable. Many firms may already have a host of certificates – ISO, for example – and these will need to be honoured and renewed yearly, even if the office is empty.
The more obvious area of negligence is GDPR supervision. These expectations are only growing stronger, especially as it approaches its second-year anniversary. Data privacy and scrutiny is still a firm expectation no matter the level of disruption that has been caused to your business.
5. Local laws matter more than ever
HR managers will need to quickly, and thoroughly, refamiliarized themselves with local laws. For employee’s setup in different States, across boundaries, new laws and codes may apply and this will affect your obligations as an employer – this is where local knowledge and expertise matters more than ever.
The location of an employee, rather than the office, will determine the roles and influences of local legislation. For many, quick assumptions about local legislation can undermine the operational compliance of your business, even causing costly errors. Commonly, those fast assumptions we make can become be the riskiest. An employer is responsible and must adhere to local tax obligations and employee benefits per State.
As workers become more remote, pressured by safety demands, the kinds of risks to anticipate can start to seem endless. Yet, practical action can be as easy as foundational policy that setup your business for sustainable remote work.
The article was written by Steve Cox, chief evangelist at IRIS HR Consulting, a leading international HR management consultancy.