How remote working results in a rise in legal risks

There are countless legal 'grey areas' when it comes to managing remote employees, says a leading lawyer

How remote working results in a rise in legal risks

Remote working has encouraged a rethink of an employer’s duty of care to staff. In the past year, issues like whether staff can make claims for work injury compensation while working from home have come to the fore. Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has made clear that employees are eligible to claim compensation regardless of their work location, so long as they’re on the clock.

READ MORE: Can remote workers claim compensation for injuries?

Aside from that, what are other aspects of remote working that can lead to heightened legal risk? We spoke with Thomas Choo, partner at Clyde & Co Clasis Singapore to find out.

Data privacy breach

One key issue is around data privacy laws. “It’s to do with monitoring of employees remotely, and whether employers can actually do that,” he told HRD. “Some countries have pretty advanced data privacy legislation in place, but even these legislations may not specifically address the issue. It is more of a grey area for now and I would expect more clarity from the regulators.”

Equality and discrimination

Another issue is around equality and discrimination. “There could be equality issues when you refuse requests for people to work remotely,” he said. “Maybe a particular employee is allowed to do so whereas another one isn’t. Or an employee gets access to certain technologies or a personal device and others don’t, so there may be issues in relation to discrimination.”

Breach of confidentiality

Then there’s the heightened risk of breach of confidentiality when employees work from home. The lawyer shared that there’s recently been a spike in litigation and lawsuits involving remote employees. “An extreme example of having a call at home and discussing confidential issues,” he said. “Or sharing laptops with a spouse who works for a competitor.”

READ MORE: Can remote staff request to work overseas?

Entitlements of overseas remote workers

Additionally, he said that the legal risks are very different when it comes to managing remote staff based locally or overseas. “If they’re abroad, there are huge number of legal implications,” he said.

The ‘grey areas’ around managing overseas remote workers include questions around their employee rights. Do you follow the labour laws in the employee’s current location or the company’s physical office, where they were hired out of and based at previously? This also applies to entitlements like employee benefits.

“There’s the complication in some countries that employees who stay in a location for long enough automatically acquire local employment rights,” he said.

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