Legal tips for teleworking

by HCA21 Oct 2013

Advancements in communication and digital technologies have allowed for greater opportunities for working from home for some time. With internet speeds increasing globally, the technological barriers preventing employees from working from home are decreasing.

HC has reported previously it isn’t all good news – while teleworking is great for some employees and organisations, others are not fairing as well. While many factors need to be weighed up, one area that should be viewed objectively is the legal protections surrounding complications and security breaches, Trent Taylor, special counsel at Holding Redlich, stated.

“When allowing staff to work outside the regular place of business, it’s important that all organisations have privacy, security and Intellectual Property [IP] policies in place,” he said.

“There are a number of important questions employers need to ask themselves and their staff before allowing them to undertake work away from the business, either at home, while travelling or at a client’s premises.”

Taylor’s concerns are well founded: a recent report from The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found over half the Australian workforce complete some work outside their employers’ premises on a regular basis.

The study covered 2400 households and 1500 SMEs, and found the most common home-worker was male, employed full-time with a university qualification, and aged between  35 and 44. Thirty nine per cent of employers with a headcount below 20 allowed staff to work from home at least once a week.

This can present problems when appropriate security measures are not in place – it is easy for information to leak, either intentionally or due to a few careless mistakes by unknowing staff.


Key HR takeaways

Taylor suggested that employers take four primary steps to minimise the chances of IP breaches while staff are away from their usual place of work:

  • Adopt clear policies on what documents can and can’t be taken home.
  • Develop a policy for accessing computers (including from off-site).
  • Adopt technological measures (such as encryption) for access to their computer servers.
  • Ensure there are protections in place or monitoring systems in place to restrict or record the transfer of files and/or emails, as may be appropriate.


To evaluate what is necessary, however, employers must start asking themselves some hard questions. These include:

  • Is any confidential information leaving the office? What about personal?
  • Is my organisation required to keep the information confidential?
  • Can any of the information be saved to a remote computer by the employee?
  • Is there any information that is sensitive and shouldn’t be accessible remotely?
  • Are files being sent to personal email accounts?
  • Are appropriate safeguards in place to prevent the hacking of personal/home computers?
  • What is the privacy policy?
  • Are any privacy laws being breached?


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