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Employers Seek Telework Policies That Embrace Needs of All Employees

By Saige Draeger  |  June 10, 2021

After over a year of working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions, many workers are quitting the office—at least partly. According to the Pew Research Center, 54% of those working from home, either fully or most of the time, say they want to continue working remotely even as the pandemic subsides.

Companies are responding: Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox and Spotify are just a handful of the major employers extending full-time remote work options to eligible staff, while others such as Microsoft and PayPal plan to adopt hybrid structures with more remote flexibility.

And the switch isn’t just in the private sector; municipalities and states are making the transition, too.

For people with disabilities and other workers who may benefit from additional flexibility, the transition to telework offers opportunity. However, as more employers embrace telework, new or existing policies should take into consideration the needs of all employees. In a recent policy brief, “Adopting an Integrated Telework Policy for Employees With and Without Disabilities,” the Employer Assistance and Resource Network for Disability Inclusion offers considerations and strategies for employers formulating or reworking telework policies to ensure inclusion for all, including those with disabilities.

Since access to telework can qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, many employers have separate policies relating to telework—one for cases of reasonable accommodation and another for employees who do not require an accommodation. Employers can instead create a single integrated policy by specifying how the ADA applies to the company’s existing telework rules. For example, an employer might require employees to work for a specified time before becoming eligible for telework. However, if a new employee needs to work at home due to disability status, and the job’s essential functions can be performed remotely, then the existing rule may need to be waived to comply with the ADA.

The brief also provides a checklist for employers creating integrated telework policies, including guidance on telework policy statements, what to include in remote work agreements and strategies for implementation.

As the expansion of telework continues, inclusivity and accessibility considerations are critical to ensuring that all employees, including those with disabilities, can participate equitably and be successful on the job.  

Saige Draeger is a research analyst in NCSL’s Employment, Labor and Retirement Program.

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