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  • How The Cloud Impacts Employment Laws

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    Advancing technology has significantly revolutionized the working environment. Currently, employees enjoy immense flexibility at work, collaborate remotely, and work from home or favorite cafes, thanks to cloud computing. The recent coronavirus pandemic also escalated the use of cloud technology, with digital live streams and webinars replacing physical meetings.


    However, while employees enjoy such flexibility, cloud computing comes with significant security risks and legal hurdles that should be addressed. That said, employers should find a perfect balance between offering their employees flexibility while abiding by employment laws. Below are the key points of intersection between cloud computing and employment laws.


    1. Working Hours

    Most countries have instituted laws that guide employee protection from employers. Among the common laws are provisions guiding maximum working hours, minimum wage, and employee compensation in case of injuries sustained while at work.  For instance, U.S legislation on working laws stipulates that employees shouldn’t work more than 40 hours weekly or 8 hours per day on average. They should also have a minimum resting period of not less than 11 hours consecutively per day, 24 hours per week, and at least four weeks leave annually.


    Unfortunately, the typical eight hours working day norm doesn’t apply in the current era. Currently, there is no clear separation between leisure time and working hours, especially with remote work sponsored by cloud computing. Periods of rest are often interrupted, with employees checking emails over the weekend or off-work hours.


    While this is a common and serious infringement of employment laws, there is no clarity on what constitutes interruption during resting periods. The U.S Employment laws also state that any work-related obligations shouldn’t restrict employees during their rest, and they should control their wellbeing without disturbance.


    Practically, most employees accept after-work interruptions by messages and emails as a trade-off for flexibility. However, this is legally wrong since the burden of being reachable during rest cannot be compared to when on call. Fortunately, guiding authorities have introduced provisions into law allowing employees to disconnect from work by limiting work-related emails during rest.


    2. Employee Surveillance

    Home offices are quickly becoming a norm with cloud computing. However, what happens when an employee sustains injuries while working remotely? Evidently, private accident insurance is indispensable in such situations. Employers should trust their employees more with such working models, as supervisors and department managers cannot monitor their employees directly.


    That aside, employers shouldn’t access or collect employees’ private data other than the basic information required for employment. Therefore, there are legal implications if the employer wishes to monitor IT equipment used by employees, such as mobile devices and networks used to access data. If the employer wants to access such data, they should obtain a works council or individual agreement to avoid being non-compliant with data protection laws.


    The thin line between working and private affairs is further obscured by the increasing use of business tools, such as email accounts, laptops, smartphones, and BYOD working models that allow private tools for business transactions. This can lead to loss of data control and violates data protection laws. To avoid such, employees should separate private data from business data.


    Furnishing home offices is another serious concern. Most employers resulted in furnishing home offices of their employees with the necessary equipment, especially during the pandemic. Doing this led to serious occupation safety risks. Besides, the employer loses the ability to forbid employees from handing overwork equipment to third parties, which can lead to serious data losses.

    The Budding Gig Economy

    Cloud computing and digital technology, in general, have led to the inception of a budding labor market segment called the gig economy. Essentially, this refers to freelance labor for those interested in short-term working terms. The gig economy is common in advertising, media, IT, delivery or transport, and construction industries. This economy has grown due to new technological platforms, such as Deliveroo and Uber, which enable freelancers to work on short-term opportunities.


    Gig economy arrangements are also surging in popularity, especially with workers who prefer flexible and independent schedules. However, a common controversy with such an arrangement is that employers don’t pay social premiums, wage taxes, and employees don’t enjoy minimum wage requirements, sick leaves, and protection from unfair dismissal.


    With such an emerging trend, relevant authorities should begin enacting legal protections for short-term workers that force employers to submit social security and insurance contributions for their workers. Employees are also being encouraged to embrace the use of employment contracts signed in the presence of an employment lawyer. This minimizes the risks of legal complications with your employer.

    Bottom Line

    Technological processes have already begun shifting how people work in the current digital world. While the future will focus on making effective use of advantages and opportunities provided by these new technologies, employers should find ways to ensure that they operate within employment laws and provide high-standard employee protection. Employers should also review data privacy and protection laws to reduce the risks of sanctions and consequences resulting from inadvertent gaffes.

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