4 Common HR Questions About Remote Employees

Apr 11, 2024

remote employees hr

According to Gallup, the number of days employees worked remotely doubled during the pandemic, leading some companies to make a remote work arrangement permanent. While there are no laws that exclusively apply to remote workplaces, remote work does come with HR topics and questions that may not have been relevant or came up often before the large shift to this type of work environment. Here are four common HR questions regarding remote employees.

1. Remote employees and FMLA

Now that we’ve become a “remote first” company with most of our employees working from home, we’ve started hiring remote employees in other parts of the country. FMLA covers us because we have more than 50 employees — even at our headquarters alone. Will our remote employees be eligible for FMLA leave once they’ve worked the required amount of time?

Yes, these new remote employees will likely be entitled to take leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but not just yet. To be eligible for leave under the FMLA, an employee must have worked for your company for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately before their leave, and work at a worksite with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.

Unlike other situations, for purposes of FMLA, an employee’s home is not a work site. Rather, their worksite is the office they report to or receive assignments from. So, if your remote employees report to or get their assignments from your headquarters, then they are considered to work at a work site that has 50 or more employees. If you have multiple physical offices, you’ll need to evaluate which location would be considered each employee’s worksite, and then how many employees fall under that worksite.

Bottom line: an employee whose work site has 50 or more employees will be eligible for FMLA leave once they’ve worked 1,250 hours and hit their one-year anniversary.

2. Remote worker injured on the job

A remote employee told us they were injured at home during their workday. What are our responsibilities?

When an employee informs you that they were injured while working from home, take the claim seriously and follow your usual procedure for a workplace injury. Here are the steps we recommend:

  • Thank them for letting you know about the injury and ask if they need medical attention. If necessary, help them get it. Their health and safety should be your first priority.
  • Have the employee complete a workers’ compensation claim form, which can be obtained from your carrier. The carrier should be notified as soon as possible.
  • Check for any recordkeeping or reporting requirements that you may be subject to under OSHA.
  • Keep a copy of the employee’s claim form and any other supporting documentation.
  • Talk to the employee about what happened to determine if there is a way you can help prevent this kind of injury in the future. For instance, if they tripped over a computer cord, the cords may be bundled and arranged in a safer location.

3. Remote employee performance management

A remote employee’s roommate has been disrupting their work to the point that their performance is suffering. How should we handle this?

This situation should be handled the same way you’d manage most work disruptions affecting an employee’s performance. Start by having a conversation with the employee about the disruption and explaining your concerns and performance expectations. Remind them that it’s their responsibility to maintain a working environment where they can be successful. Feel free to brainstorm solutions with them—like a different room for their workstation or creating a house rule that calls for quiet during work hours—but it’s ultimately on the employee to make whatever changes are necessary.

If things don’t improve, follow your standard process for managing performance.

4. Remote employee lunch breaks

We have a remote employee who is working through their lunch break. Can we require them to take it?

Yes, generally you can and should require an employee to take a lunch break. In many states, employers are required to provide employees with rest breaks, meal breaks, or both, and are sometimes even required to provide them at specific times during an employee’s shift. An employee skipping these rest periods could result in noncompliance with those laws. Additionally, employees who work through their breaks may see negative impacts on their health and well-being, while you may see a drop in their overall productivity. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the appropriate break time is provided and taken.

Having said that, before taking any adverse action against the employee, try to find out why they’re working through their break. Perhaps they would rather take their break at a different time, or maybe their workload is so heavy they feel they have to work through breaks to keep up. We advise approaching the employee with curiosity and looking for a solution that works for both of you. If the employee continues to skip their breaks despite these efforts, you can consider whether discipline is appropriate.

This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.


Having HR Issues With Remote Employees?

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