Employers: Prepare to Negotiate Work From Home Policies

Employers: Prepare to Negotiate Work From Home Policies

I’ve said it before (and I will likely say it again) – unions negotiating collective bargaining agreements in 2023 will seek to solidify work from home commitments for employees who worked from home during the Covid pandemic.

While I’m sure some unions have not made this proposal, in my experience, they are in the minority.

Companies that cobbled together a way for employees to be productive from home are often surprised when employees represented by a union demand to make work from home a permanent part of their work experience.

Employers are capitulating to these proposals to avoid strikes or replacing employees in this tight labor market.

Thompson-Reuters Corp. is a recent example of this. It reached agreement with its unionized US journalists that allows most journalist to work from home three days per week. This was agreed to about a month after the journalists voted to authorize a strike.

Thompson-Reuters workers accepted much lower wage increases than they initially demanded; but they get to work from home indefinitely.

Companies need to look critically at those union positions that worked from home during Covid. While companies thought work from home was temporary, employees want them to be permanent.

All those nuances of working from home that unions let slide during the pandemic must be agreed to or companies risk grievances or unfair labor practice charges.

For example, will the employer pay for or reimburse the employee for home internet, computer, monitor, desk, chair, office supplies, electricity, etc. If the employee has two monitors or an ergonomic chair at work, will the employee have the same at home?

How will the employer monitor employees to ensure productivity remains high and employees are paid appropriately for all hours worked to comply with the FLSA? The NLRB has already spoken out against cameras, GPS, keyloggers, software that takes screenshots, and audio recordings throughout the day.

What payroll taxes will be deducted from the employee’s paycheck? Is there a different deduction requirement because the employee works in a different city than where the office is located or because the employee receives direction from a supervisor who lives and works in a third different city?

Codifying work from home parameters in a collective bargaining agreement is much more than: who can do it and when can they do it? Savvy negotiators must think several steps ahead about the nuanced impact work from home has across several areas of the company.


Matt Austin is a nationwide management labor lawyer. Labor laws govern virtually all private-sector employees regardless of union membership. Proactive management of labor relations is critical to maintaining flexibility and increasing profit.

Matt also runs Austin Legal’s HR Legal Compliance Program that, for a small monthly fee, ensures HR decisions are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Matt’s experience is deeply rooted in helping manage many aspects of his clients’ businesses. To effectively manage labor relations, he must also manage budgets, forecasts, new growth areas, and projected market corrections. High emotional intelligence is also critical to negotiating union contracts and to properly advise HR Legal Compliance members through the nuances of the law, its application to their companies, and how it will be received by employees.

You can reach Matt via email at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.