Have Remote Employees? Make Sure You're Tracking Work Hours
by Michelle Higgins
Remote work became more common this year, as many businesses swiftly morphed their staff into telecommuters as a result of the pandemic.
While remote work has been trending in recent years, many companies new to the game have had a steep learning curve. One area that can be tricky is keeping track of hours worked by telecommuters.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to keep accurate records of nonexempt (hourly) employees’ work hours, as well as pay them overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.
This may be easier to do when employees are working within eyesight.
When they’re telecommuting and potentially working off the clock, this presents unique risks for organizations.
While there is the potential for error with hours worked no matter where an employee physically works, tracking hours may be more difficult with remote employees.
Employers can take steps to help ensure employees are properly reporting their time and curb potential wage and hour violations:
- Communicate: Remind teleworkers that all hours worked must be reported.
- Explain: Let teleworkers know what sorts of activities do and do not count as work time.
- Watch: Monitor employees who work outside of their normal shifts. If a company believes a teleworker completed tasks at a strange time or didn’t properly record work hours, some digging should be done. For example, if an employee recorded that she worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the company’s records show the employee was sending work-related emails at 10 p.m., the company should find out why the time wasn’t recorded properly and pay the employee for that time.
- Convey: Regularly convey that no off-the-clock work is allowed. Companies may need to add language to their handbook, including the consequences for not following company policy. While they would still need to pay employees if they worked off-the-clock, the company could impose discipline.
- Re-evaluate: Weigh the pros of cons of telework. Although nonexempt (hourly) employees can certainly be allowed to telecommute, to avoid issues with tracking work hours, some employers may choose to limit those opportunities to exempt (salaried) employees.