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When an organization makes the decision to implement a formal telecommuting program, as opposed to a less structured “flexible work schedule" policy, it is imperative that they include some structure to the program, including telework guidelines. One of the biggest oversights is not creating a formal telecommute or telework agreement between the worker and the company. A telecommuting arrangement should be no different than any other business agreement – succint, clear, and fair to both sides.
The Telecommuting Agreement can be the very tool that allows you to lay out your specifics, your expectations, as well as those terms that would make the agreement unacceptable.
The following are some basic sections found in common telework contracts, telecommute agreements, or other telework documents. You may like to include them all, add your own, or select only those that apply to your situation.
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Term of Agreement
This section will identify the extent and term of the agreement. It is a good idea to set an initial term for the agreement, at which time both parties can evaluate the program, its effectiveness, and benefits for both parties. Six months or a one year term are common.
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Termination of Agreement
This section should spell out the fact that the worker’s participation as a Telecommuter is entirely voluntary, and that Teleworking a privilege, and is available only to eligible workers, at Employer’s sole discretion. If participation in the program is based on merit, it should be detailed here, as well as any reason a worker might become ineligible.
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Salary, Job Responsibilities, Benefits, Work hours, Overtime, Vacation
This section need not detail the worker’s salary and specific work responsibilities, if the worker has been employed on-site prior to the Telecommuting agreement. Instead, this section can state that none of these factors will change specifically because of involvement in the program. Raises, evaluations, and other financial considerations are not affected because of the telecommuting agreement.
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It is important to specify and agree to when the worker will be accessible for work issues, and what specific hours the worker intends to be available. If specific “core hours" are required in order to be available for meetings, trainings, phone calls, questions, etc., then these hours must be specified in this section. Any specific work schedule modifications for telework days should be attached and signed at the end of this agreement.
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There are two ways telecommuting can be conducted, 1 – the employer provides the necessary computer, software, and other equipment needed for teleworking, and all of these items remain the property of the EMPLOYER and must be returned to the company upon request. Or 2 – the worker is expected to supply the required hardware, peripherals, software, as well as specific versions or accessories in order to connect to and maintain the security and safety of the employer’s network and environment.
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This section will spell out the need for the Worker to designate a workspace within the worker’s remote work location for placement and installation of equipment to be used while teleworking. It is acceptible for the employer to require the right to approve the site chosen as worker’s remote workspace, or to require the Worker to submit photos of the home workspace to management prior to final agreement.
It should also be identified in this section where or how any confidential documents, records or files should be kept, as well as the procedure for destruction or disposal of records.
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This section could specify who is responsible for office supplies and how any out-of-pocket expenses for supplies would be handled.
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This is a very important section, and must be very clear. Check with your legal advisor to be sure this section is accurate. In most cases, the employer is responsible for any work-related injuries under the specific state's Workers Compensation laws. However, ONLY regarding injuries resulting directly from work related activities, and only if the injury occurs in the Workers designated work area.
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The Telecommuting or Teleworking contract is an excellent tool to get all parties on the same page. It facilitates the understanding of what is involved, what is at stake, and agreeing to work together to make the effort a success. For more information about telecommuting, check out these articles: Telecommuting, Telework, Flexible Work, or Consultant? What is the difference?, Telecommuting Trends in the 2009 Economy, or Take the One Ton Challenge! Telecommute and Save the Planet!