Wednesday, December 1

Do labor laws still make sense for the remote workforce?


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A new study from the Fraser Institute suggests that telecommuting is here to stay, but labor laws may need to be reformed as a result.




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Prepared by Professor Morley Gunderson of the University of Toronto, the paper suggests that 50% of employed Canadians could work from home, although forecasts of around 25% are more likely.

However, some labor laws and regulations may no longer make sense for a workforce that operates primarily from home.

“Just as technological change has made many production procedures and skills obsolete, it is not surprising that many of the labor policies are also obsolete,” said Jason Clemens, executive vice president of the Fraser Institute.

The document outlines the many benefits of working from home: reduced (or no) travel times, better productivity, reported by 30% of employers, and higher worker satisfaction.




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In the longer term, the ability to work remotely will allow some employees to move to areas with less expensive housing. The reduction in travel is also a reduction in pollution and urban traffic congestion.

Teleworking contributes to a better work-life balance and allows employees to have more control over their work environment.

And if people can work from anywhere, employers can recruit from a much larger pool of talent. They will also spend less on office space.

Of course, there are downsides, including the loss of team building and professional development, and the loss of opportunities for collaborative work.

“Concerns can also be raised if working from home involves constant availability 24/7, with little opportunity to disconnect,” Gunderson writes.




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Most jobs that can be done from home are largely of the higher education / higher income type. However, Professor Gunderson takes great pains to explain how some Canadian labor laws and regulations are outdated when it comes to telecommuting.

For example, it is difficult to enforce people’s working hours, verify overtime claims, or monitor breaks; It suggests that payment could be shifted from hours worked to production, i.e. piece rates, but that is not fully explained.

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Gunderson’s view on telecommuting is that having employees at home will only confuse labor relations laws and make it difficult to enforce various health and safety regulations. It will also muddy the waters around workers’ compensation claims, which will be difficult to control. Pay equity laws may also have to change if the benefits of working from home are factored into the equation.


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Recommends that legislators do not extend old rules to new work circumstances. Instead, the focus should be on removing barriers to working from home. For example, increasing access to broadband infrastructure will help enable remote work and can help alleviate rental and housing crises.

Zoning changes can also be beneficial. In general, fewer regulations is the desired goal, according to Gunderson.





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