Working from home during coronavirus: employee expenses – Global News

working from home

Costs of working from home

Since the mid-March lockdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, millions of Canadians workers have been unexpectedly shifted from cubicles to couches. Working from home has become the “new normal” for employees and employers, and many seem eager to make the change a permanent one.

Global News spoke to Lior Samfiru, a leading employment lawyer in Toronto and co-founding partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, about the costs that come with working from home, and who should ultimately shoulder them.

Should an employer or employee pay for necessary work-from-home resources?

Samfiru told Global News that it depends on what is considered a necessity and what is a comfort.

Computers or related office equipment

The employer would be on the hook for items considered to be a necessity to complete the job. That might include a computer or related office equipment.

An ergonomic chair

While you may have enjoyed the benefits of an ergonomic chair back at the office, you may not be able to bring a similar seat into your home at the employer’s expense.

“There are things that may make life easier or more comfortable that might not be deemed necessary,” said Samfiru.

Your employer may be required to cover the cost of an ergonomic chair if you have a pre-existing health condition, or if the chair is needed for medical reasons.

Electricity, heating and phone bills

You may see your electricity, heating and cooling, phone and internet bills increase as you spend more time at home, rather than at the office.

Samfiru told Global News that an employee can ask their employer to provide financial assistance to cover some of that cost. That conversation may be a difficult one to have, but some companies have chosen to provide a small allowance to cover these unexpected bill increases.

“It’s a cost. It’s one I have to incur to allow me to work from home, even for a moment. That’s reasonable.”

Keep in mind that employers are not legally required to pay for an employee’s home expenses.

Should my employer pay part of my rent if I work from home?

Samfiru suggests that Canadians working from home can look to the tax system for financial support where working from home is concerned.

You can claim a portion of your home expenses on your taxes if you are using part of your house for work purposes, and if you are unable to come to an agreement with your employer.

Employees should refer to the Canada Revenue Agency’s T-2200 form. Employers must fill it out to declare that they are not reimbursing employees for expenses incurred at home.

Expenses that you can claim may include electricity, gas, property taxes, and repairs, as well as paper, pens or laptops that you have purchased for work purposes.

In closing, Samfiru told Global News that pursuing reimbursement from the government may be a “win-win for employers and employees.”

Read the full article on Global News.

Learn more about your rights during the coronavirus pandemic through our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Knowledge Centre, where you can find resources about your employment rights during COVID-19.

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