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Do I Have a Legal Right to Work from Home (If It’s Possible to Do My Job Remotely)?

right to work from homeDo employees have a right to work from home?

During the last 13 months or so, many people have become accustomed to working from home. Doing so wasn’t an option for everyone. However, many were driven from their offices into their homes for their usual workday.

The pandemic situation continues to evolve, but many employers are ordering employees back into their traditional workplaces. But what about people who are uncomfortable gathering in groups?

What happens when an employee is afraid to return to the workplace or feels that doing so is a threat to their health?

Here’s what you need to know about your legal right to work from home.

Do You Have a Right to Work from Home?

First, it’s important to know that you are not alone. People learned after a year or more of working from home that it was a better environment for them. In some cases, this was due to health. But others just find they are more productive or better able to manage their work-life balance from home.

Chances are, you won’t be the first person to approach your employer about working from home.

Second, employees must understand they have no right to insist they work from home. Employers can order work duties to be performed in the office. But only if doing so does not interfere with any governmental mandates regarding social distancing.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers must maintain a workplace free of serious hazards. COVID-19 is most definitely a hazard. However, employers have no obligation to protect every employee from contracting a virus in the workplace.

That said, you shouldn’t give up hope when it comes to working from home on a longer-term basis.

Legally your employer can force you back into the workplace, but it might not be in their best interest to do so. Additionally, many employers are sensitive to employee concerns about the virus and are more than happy to offer flexibility.

It’s worth approaching your boss about your concerns and requesting work-from-home accommodations, especially if you’ve been doing so up to this point. Even if you aren’t granted a permanent work-from-home opportunity, your employer could grant temporary permission until the pandemic is less of a concern.

What If I’m High Risk?

Everyone knows certain members of the population face a higher COVID risk than others. Share with your employer your health concerns for yourself or a loved one living in your home.

You have no obligation to share specific health information with their employer. However, choosing to share certain information strengthens your case.  Your employer is more likely to approve your request to work from home if they understand you have serious health concerns.

Other Things to Consider

One of the primary things you’ll want to consider before making your work-from-home request is how well you’ve transitioned from the traditional work environment to at-home work during the pandemic. You working from home must benefit your employer. Otherwise, you’re less likely to get approval for extending the arrangement.

However, if you’re able to show you’ve been more productive and achieved at least as much as you would have during a pandemic-less 2020 and 2021, your odds of getting your request approved are much higher.

This list of pre-pandemic benefits of working from home from Entrepreneur offers information you might want to share with your employer.

Despite the light many have begun to see at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic is ongoing. Employees and employers have made a variety of sacrifices during this time and continue to do so.

But if your employer has begun the transition back to “normal,” but you don’t feel ready to head back, it’s understandable. Likewise, if you’ve realized you excel at home and provide your employer with more value when working from home. Your employer has no legal right to grant your request to keep your work environment in-house, but many do if they understand your point of view.

For more information about your employee rights regarding COVID-19 or to learn more about your employer’s legal responsibility for protecting your health, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation.

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