New Laws for Remote Workers that Will Change How Your Business Operates

As the way we work continues to change, many countries' governments are introducing new labor policies to keep up. Employees will continue working from home in a post-pandemic world, so our governments' responsibility is to make sure these employees' rights are still protected.


Europe has been the most progressive region globally, with two countries passing legislation related to remote workers. Over 70% of European companies surveyed have decided to remain with a work-from strategy. 


States in the U.S. have also implemented measures with incentives for remote workers to relocate and adjust their complex labor laws. Companies need to be aware of what to look for when hiring an employee in a new state or country to avoid unwanted costs and adhere to local laws. 


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It's crucial for companies to be aware of these law changes, not only to comply with the government but also so they can help their employees with the transition. Knowledge of these laws will protect companies from any lawsuits or other legal actions that can arise from new regulations. It will also benefit their relationship with employees, making them more happy and productive going into the new year.

If you want to learn more about the new labor laws for remote workers in Europe and the United States, read the article below. You'll find information about laws already in place and what's to come soon. 

 

New Laws for Remote Workers in Europe

After initially providing aid to businesses at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, it seems many governments are shifting their stimulus plans to a workers-rights focus. 

European companies need to be aware of these changes. Not just because they could become law, but also because the tax breaks and financial benefits they've received to keep their workers could be ending soon.


Losing those benefits could mean trouble for many companies as 17% of employers surveyed in Europe said they wouldn't maintain their full staff without any government aid.

In addition to that, there's also Employee well being and fair work hours to consider. While these changes vary significantly from country to country, we'll look at two specific countries leading the way with different actions: Germany and Spain. 


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Germany

In Germany, the government has taken measures to protect its' at-home workforce. Their remote work policy and work from home laws prioritize workers' rights and acknowledge the situation's difficulty for many households. They have shown through swift legislation that remote workers are a top concern.

 

Germany is planning a €600 tax rebate for people working from home. This will come in deductions from their yearly taxes to supplement the additional expenses of heat, water, electricity, and other utilities.

 

There are also talks about changing their definition of a "home office." In the past, Germany only considered households with a designated office room as eligible for rebates. With this new rebate, they will make that definition more inclusive. It will include people who have been working from their kitchen tables, couches, and bedrooms for the last nine months. 


With 56% of workers potentially working remotely, the German government is already looking toward the future. The Labor Minister has stated that he wants remote work to be a fundamental right of all employees. It seems the government is following suit with the minister's opinions as they are currently drafting a new labor law. It would give employees the legal right to work from home if their job does not require them to be physically present.


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Spain

The Spanish government has made efforts to address the millions of people switching to remote work. In a Royal Decree released on the 22nd of September, they outlined many regulations and benefits for remote workers. 

 

First, they made it clear to define what remote work is. The government decided that anyone who works more than 30% of their time from home in a three-month interval can be considered a remote employee. They also made sure to clarify that remote workers and traditional office employees have the same rights

 

Spain also has different opinions on the home office as a right. Companies won't require employees to work remotely, and employees won't be able to require home office days. Instead, everything will operate voluntarily. 

 

Employees that hire remote workers in Spain will be responsible for their employees' home offices. They will need to have a formal remote working arrangement with their workers (signed document). It will be compulsory to provide equipment for working from home, reimburse additional expenses, and ensure a safe and healthy environment. 

 

The decree also clarifies that employers will be responsible for the privacy, data protection, and the right to disconnect for all their remote employees. 

 

One benefit that employers might like to see is that employee monitoring during business hours was also approved. This means you will have the legal right to make sure your employees work effectively and efficiently during their working hours through time tracking apps. 

 

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What does this Mean for Companies with Remote Workers in Europe? 

These are just two countries, and while they can't tell us precisely what other countries in Europe will do, they can give some insight into what the EU might make standard. Policies vary significantly over borders and are changing daily due to the volatile nature of COVID-19.

 

If you have offices in Germany or Spain, or even if you don't, you can use these new regulations as guidelines to adjust your company. You can take a few simple steps to ensure your remote work policy is up to date and in coordination with new labor laws. 

 

Be aware of policies and laws like the tax rebates in Germany because they can provide extra money in outfitting your employees' home offices.

 

If the country you're located in is taking measures similar to Spain, then have someone checking the news constantly. But that's not enough. Companies are preparing all over the world by taking proactive steps according to employee requests and common sense. 

 

Suppose you want to avoid health and safety lawsuits. In that case, you should ensure that remote workers' home offices are safe and comfortable. 

 

Beyond the official policies, it's also essential to check in with your workers and make sure they are comfortable. Mental health can be threatened when working from home. Regular communication is sometimes all an employee needs to keep them happy and satisfied. For more complicated issues, including a psychology option in your healthcare plan can also improve your workers' overall mental health. 

 

For countries requiring you to provide remote workers with equipment, you can try a company like Growrk. They will accept any order you need. You can even set a budget for your employees and have them order the equipment they want directly from the website. 

 

Back pain from faulty or inadequate furniture can also contribute to a work environment being considered unsafe. 

 

New Labor Laws for Remote Workers in the U.S.A. 

Currently, no new federal laws are being passed in the U.S. regarding remote workers. In general, most of these policies and workers' rights policies are handled on a state by state basis. 

 

Because of the vast differences in approach between states, it can be difficult to make broad statements about what companies should be aware of when hiring or asking employees to work remotely. With so many states, it would take too long to go over each remote work policy individually. 

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However, there are six policies you should check before hiring remote workers in a different state. 

  1. How many employees to hire before policies take effect: Your company needs a minimum of employees in that state before state-specific labor policies can be applied. Before you hire a large group of employees in a new state, make sure to check this number. It might be more cost-effective to hire smaller numbers of employees in different states and avoid minimums altogether. 
  2. Payroll: Every state has its policy and dates required for payroll and payroll-related taxes. When checking this policy, be sure to record deadlines, tax rates, and tax changes applicable to remote workers. There are companies which can provide this service for you, so you don't have to dive too deep into the legal and taxation muck.
  3. Pay and Hours Regulations: The federal minimum wage can be used as a baseline, but the minimum wage varies significantly depending on the state. You'll also have to keep track of overtime, equal pay, and bookkeeping. The general standard for overtime is 1.5X wage for additional work after a 40-hour workweek. However, even this can be very different depending on the state, and you should verify it before hiring anybody. 
  4. Visible Rights Requirements: Most states require employees' labor rights to be displayed somewhere in the workplace. For remote workers, you might want to consider making this available electronically. 
  5. Immigration: Everyone who works in the United States needs an I-9 verification form to prove their work eligibility. Some states also require an E-Verify system. Check to make sure if this is required in your state of business to avoid legal actions. 
  6. Workers Comp: Even when they occur at home, companies can be held responsible for work injuries if they happen during one's employment. Check to see what protection your company has from a lawsuit if someone is injured while working at home. Also, see what evidence your remote workers will be asked to provide in these situations.

The Future of Labor Laws for Remote Workers in the U.S.A

With the situation evolving every day and the variations between states, it's challenging to predict remote workers' future in the U.S. What we do know is that office vacancies will climb more than 3% by the end of 2020. New policies can be expected to follow these vacancies. 

 

As more and more people start remote working, calls for equal rights among people employed in the workplace, and those telecommuting will get louder and louder. The more people you have working from home, the more popular perks for remote workers will become. Most companies with a sizable remote staff already offer furniture stipends, flexible time schedules, and remote events because of their employee's requests. 

 

The only solution to these changes is to stay relevant and be prepared for dramatic shifts when they arise. While federal regulations might be far in the future, state legislation will change monthly. If your company operates in multiple areas throughout the country, it is imperative that you follow all of these updates. 

 

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What does this mean for companies with remote workers? 

Companies in the U.S. with remote workers need to do their research. Before opening up a remote branch or hiring individuals in a new state or a new country, you can use the guidelines above to make a more involved decision. After going policy by policy in the state or country, you'll know if it's worth it to start doing business there. 

If you're looking for what you can do now to prepare for the unpredictable future, there are a few things. You can do the following to stay at least relatively up to date with policy universally:

  • Time Coordination: Watch your employees' hours closely and make sure people aren't over logging times while working from home. You can utilize whatever management software your company uses to do this. If you want to make meetings and other events more regulated, try using a site like doodle.com. On this site, time availability can be listed, and workers can sign up for specific slots according to their schedules. 
  • Salary: Watch your employees' wages and keep them consistent with the standard country minimum wage and maximum hourly regulations. You can find updated information on each state's minimum wage here. 
  • Ample Time for Rest: When employees work from home, it's easy for an employer to request too much without realizing it. Without seeing those tired eyes in the office in the morning, you might not even know you're asking too much. Make sure you provide plenty of paid sick leave to keep your employees healthy and satisfied. This rest time can come in the form of a paid vacation or by keeping track of the time logs and ensuring each employee isn't overworking themselves into late hours of the evening.
  • Information Security: Information security was at the forefront of legal innovation long before the Coronavirus. With companies like Facebook and Google making millions from people's data, there are sure to be strict regulations and structural changes to come. Your remote employees, working hundreds of hours from their computers, are very susceptible to data prioritization. Provide them with proxies and cookie monitoring tools to keep their personal information safe. 
  • Expenses and Equipment: Another way to keep your company compliant with health and safety standards is to provide your employees with adequate equipment. Work-related accidents rarely happen at home, so the leading causes of health and safety problems are poor furniture and stress to mental health. Obviously, the home is just as dangerous as anywhere else. Accidents can occur, but when we're talking about bodily harm while sitting in front of a computer, it's easy to narrow it down to these two possibilities.

We already mentioned that opening a regular communication line with your employees can help with those mental stresses. Ensure your employees have a decent chair to sit in and the equipment they need using GroWrk.com. GroWrk will send all your employees top of the line equipment and services which are proven to last and support health and wellness.

As the world changes and new legislation is passed, it can be challenging to keep up. Coronavirus has only expedited that process. It's crucial to regularly research relevant information for your company, regardless of whether it's about remote workers or just standard policy. However, the rise in remote work has made these policies more critical than ever before, and you should be proactive. The article above has provided you some insight. Use it to grow your remote work policy to a more advanced model. Above all else, keep your company healthy and good luck. 

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