Do you really know where employees are when they are working?
A week or two in Colorado, staying with family in Texas for a couple of months or maybe even a month in Costa Rica all while keeping the job afloat! Sounds appealing for sure, and more people are doing it. It can be a great perk for employees, but a potential legal nightmare for small businesses. Stateside employees working internationally is a whole other ball of wax, so we are going to focus on just the US and traveling state to state.
With more remote work and flexibility pushing into the mainstream of how we work, we are hearing about “workcations” and employees telecommuting to and from different locations. Sometimes employees are letting employers know and sometimes they aren’t, so it’s up to the employer to know where employees are when they are working.
First, let’s talk about the term “workcation”. I don’t like it. 1. I don’t care for word mash-ups and 2. I think it makes it that much more of a blurred line between work and life. Getting employees to take time off and fully disconnect for their own well-being is hard enough, so I would hate to see this be perpetrated by a working vacation-type situation. Or employees feeling like they should be working on vacation because they technically can.
Getting back to the topic at hand and what this all means for small businesses. It can be sticky. As an example, if an employee is a remote worker with a residence and their assigned work location in North Carolina and they travel to New York and are working remotely from there, that means the company could then be responsible for the employment laws of NY for that employee as well as a variety of tax implications. NC and NY have completely different employment laws, paid sick time and leave laws, wage and hour laws, and the list goes on and on.
What it comes down to is that small businesses need to know where employees are and if they are planning on going to another location to work for any period of time. Each state is different so it comes down to the company looking at each situation and knowing where the employee will be, how long they will be there, what is the work that they will be doing there and then what is the overall impact and responsibility of the company as well as the employee. What corporate or employment laws apply, what payroll, income or state tax implications are there, and potentially can the work be done from another location if the role and/or the person has certain licensure requirements for their role.
Some other things to consider for employees working remotely from other states or locations are time zone differences, performance expectations, technological needs, and security of company information and equipment.
Keep in mind that consistency is key in the application of any policy or practice around telecommuting from state to state and that careful consideration should be made when determining how your small business moves forward.