Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images


Is it okay to allow an employee to work from home when she or he has a sick child at home?

Employees with young children are frequently challenged with balancing work and family.  This is especially true when one of those children becomes ill.

Occasionally an employee will ask that they be allowed to work from home.  A company is permitted to allow employees to work from home. However, before they do so companies should think about whether or not this is the best practice for the department and/or the business.

When analyzing the situation, some things to consider include:

  • What is the nature of the job? If the job requires the person to work on an assembly line, it’s unlikely that job can be performed from home.  However, if the person is a graphic artist, he or she may be able to perform that job at home.
  • What equipment is necessary to perform the job and is it reasonable to provide such equipment to the employee for use at home?
  • If the job requires the use of a computer, does your IT Department have the equipment and appropriate security protocols in place to allow the individual to work from home?
  • If the employee works with confidential information, how is the company going to ensure that information remains secure?  Is the company going to permit the employee to take confidential information home?
  • How is the company going to keep track of the individual’s time spent working?
  • It is unlikely that the individual will be as productive working from home if he or she has to care for a sick child.  Is the company prepared to make allowances for that?
  • Is the company prepared to set a precedent of allowing employees to work from home? If you do it for those individuals who have sick children, are you prepared to allow individuals to work from home in other circumstances, such as their own illnesses?

Another issue that has to be taken into consideration is workers’ compensation and safety.  Even though an employee is working from home, injuries that occur while performing work could be covered by workers’ compensation.  It is important to let employees know that they are still required to abide by the company’s safety rules, regardless of where the work is performed. Depending on the nature of the job, it may be reasonable for the employer to inspect the employee’s home work space to ensure it has been set up in a safe manner.

Today’s technology makes it easier for employers to consider work-from-home accommodations. However, whether or not working from home is a viable option for your business has to be thoughtfully considered.

Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood. Click here to learn more about EAF membership benefits

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