Hasner Law | News | June 25, 2020
Savannah is taking advantage of some of the changes to the American workforce necessitated by COVID-19. As more employees are working remotely from home, the city is trying to attract remote workers in the tech industry to the area.
Live In Savannah While Working for a Company in New York
To make a move to Savannah more attractive, the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) established a program to reimburse tech workers who relocate to Savannah. The SEDA reimburses workers up to $2,000 of their moving expenses.
Individuals must meet specific criteria to receive reimbursement. Individuals can work for themselves, a local technology company, or work remotely for a technology company located elsewhere. Other criteria include:
- Three years of verified experience in the technology field;
- Sign a minimum one year lease or purchase a home in Chatham County; and,
- Live in the county for at least 30 days before applying for the incentive.
Savannah has a lower cost of living compared to the national average. The hope is that tech workers want to take advantage of the current trend to work remotely. The fact that the city is beautiful and they can keep more of what they earn are advantages of relocating.
Remote Work May Be Here to Stay
Large tech companies are making remote work permanent. Twitter is one of the companies that has permitted employees who can work from home indefinitely.
More companies may take advantage of the trend of remote work to reduce overhead. If a company realizes that a worker can perform job duties as efficiently from home, companies may be inclined to turn those jobs into permanently remote positions. Some tech companies could cut out entire floors of offices by transitioning employees to remote workers.
With advances in technology, remote workforces are more viable now than ever before. Workers may find working from home now more appealing in light of fears of a spreading pandemic. Some of the perks of working in a tech office are not nearly as appealing when the person considers the risk to their health.
Silicon Valley companies might have been the first companies in the country to send workers home, but they were not the last. Google and Facebook are allowing employees who can do so to work from home through 2020. Microsoft and Amazon are also allowing employees to work from home for the near future.
Companies may have experienced some issues during the initial weeks of remote work. However, once those issues were resolved, companies have little incentive to bring remote workers back to the office. If employees are productive, why increase overhead by bringing them back to the office.
Providing Safe Work Environments for Telecommuters
Employers are typically responsible for providing employees with a safe work environment. However, what happens when the employee works from home. The employer does not have control over the employee’s home.
An employer can create policies for telecommuting that include guidelines for designated work areas. The employer can also provide training on safety measures and workstation setup. The steps that an employer takes is important if the worker is injured while telecommuting.
Likewise, employees who work from home should also take specific steps to avoid injuries and hazardous conditions during work hours. Being injured at work includes developing a repetitive injury. Tech workers who sit for long hours using a keyboard can develop carpal tunnel syndrome and other conditions.
Workers’ Compensation for Remote Workers
Remote workers are employees. Therefore, they are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage. Even though employees may be working from home, most employers are required to provide workers’ compensation for remote employees.
Working from home shouldn’t disqualify someone from collecting workers’ compensation benefits. However, the individual must prove that the injury occurred while performing required work duties. Tripping over laundry on the way to the kitchen for a snack is not likely to be a covered workers’ compensation injury.
However, if you trip over your office chair while taking a required break from work, your injury may be covered just as it would if you were working in your employer’s office. The key is to determine if the injury arose from the ordinary course of business in a location in which the employer would expect the employee to be performing work duties.
Employers are likely to continue evaluating the pros and cons of telecommuting. Other risks associated with telecommuting include necessary oversight, cybersecurity, and liability insurance.
If the coronavirus pandemic continues, more employers may be willing to accept some of the risks associated with remote work to keep employees safe and reduce the risk of outbreaks at the office.
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