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Exploring Remote Work Compliance w/Bhagyashree Pancholy (AllRemotely)

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Bhagyashree Pancholy, a lawyer and operations expert turned SaaS marketer with 8+ years of remote work experience running large distributed teams. I was curious to hear her insights on the issues that are facing remote teams in regards to remote legal compliance. It's something that wasn't being spoken about much at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, but now the topic is demanding more attention of both employees and employers for very different reasons. We'll take a dip into remote work compliance and cover some of the main issues employers could be failing to address and why you should be thinking more about your remote work policies.

Remote Work Compliance

Bhagyashree shared with me some of the realities of the legal battles that are being fought around remote team compliance. Back in the spring of 2020, Bhagyashree started noticing more and more companies and their employees caught up in compliance issues, leading to lengthy and costly lawsuits. After handling countless cases in her legal practice, Bhagyashree started asking some important questions that many people were failing to address early on during the pandemic.

It was as a result of asking these questions (some of which we'll share a bit later on) that she realized many of the employees and employers who found themselves dealing with compliance issues could have avoided them if they firstly, had carried out the proper assessments of their employees, and secondly, had a system in place to monitor and manage compliance in regards to their remote workforce. It was from this thought that they began laying the groundwork for what is now known as Allremotely. A company which, together with a group of experts, launched the first remote 5-step assessment package to help co-located teams move to a remote or a work from home team setting efficiently and compliantly.

How Hybrid Teams Manage Legal

Prior to the Covid pandemic, many countries already had legislation in place to protect employees and employers against compliance issues resulting from a remote or work from home situation. France, Finland, Denmark, Luxembourg, and many other countries, already had some form of legal framework long before the pandemic. Other countries such as Spain and Australia, have been implementing new legislation to handle compliance better within a remote work setting following some notable cases of remote legal issues. Many of these cases could have been evaded had companies been addressing them early on.

Some of the most basic, yet incredibly important questions remote leaders should be asking, often never got fully discussed. Examples of these include:

  • What's the difference between remote work, telework, and hybrid working...legally speaking
  • Do employees who work half in the office and half from home, classify as a remote employee?
  • What is a remote work policy? And, are we required to create one?
  • How do taxes work for remote employees?

Where Companies Fall Short with Compliance

Most of the time, the reason companies fall into legal situations with remote policies is for the simple fact that they don't actually know what they need to worry about. We're all ignorant to what we don't know. This is one of the main reasons companies fall short when it comes to legally making the switch over to remote. Where do they get it wrong? Here are a few of the main areas:

  • Contracts & Compliance
  • Employee Taxation & Withholdings
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Payroll
  • Workers Compensation

All of the above are some of the most common employer legal obligations that must be adapted in our new work setting, but other things such as cyberbullying, are often topics that don't get a lot of attention because they tend to fall behind the curtain.

It's not easy for employers to make the switch to ensure their companies are legally compliant in all situations of this new hybrid world. That's why it's incredibly important to conduct an audit within your organization, to make sure you've covered all the bases. Everything from what's on the surface, and what may be lurking in the shade.

Remote Work Euphoria

If you're working remotely, or have at some point,  I'm sure you've had what we call, 'remote work euphoria' at one point or another. There's no need to explain it too much as we're all likely familiar with it. Prior to the pandemic, working from home had a fancy ring to it for many people. However, although remote work has many benefits, many of its downsides were quickly revealed.

As Bhagyashree emphasized on our call, not everyone has the bandwidth to work from home. But, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't provide employees with the tools they need to support them if they would like to work remotely.  For companies who implement remote working practices, it's important to understand that each employee is unique in the way they function, and thus, require individual support. Bhagyashree's team at Allremotely knows the side effects of reverse remote euphoria and it's for this reason they have implemented their 5-step assessments on an employee's ability to work from home. They believe that employees need to be provided with adequate support to work remotely and should be assessed accurately (which, is one of the main issues with remote work policies at the moment - many companies are using assessments that are not validated and in the case of psychometric testing for example, non validated tests are bringing up a new type of bias and discrimination within teams.

Ensuring Workplace Compliance in a Remote Environment

How can you ensure your team is legally set up to function as a hybrid or distributed team? For starters, validated psychometric testing is key, followed by an ergonomics assessment. If there's one thing you can gain from this piece, it's that even if you had policies in place to cover every type of legal compliance issue relating to your employees, you're going to have to revisit them all if you have switched into a remote, distributed, or hybrid team setting. With that said, rather than let the thought overwhelm you, the opportunity to audit not only your existing policies but your processes are only of benefit to your organization.

If you're needing to carry out validated assessments prior to having employees work from home, you can always reach out to a compliance expert for assistance. Also, companies like AllRemotely (Remote Assessments), LetsDeel.com (Payroll), Remote.com (Payroll) Safetywing (Health Insurance), and Fond (Employee Perks), can help provide you with the tools and support needed to ensure your organization is remaining compliant.

Ensure that employees are remote-ready with the right training, environment, equipment, employment contracts, health and all the rest they need to not only be successful in their role, but for you as an employer to remain complaint with remote work compliance regulations.