Work from home in the future
Author: Sanda Planinc
The coronavirus epidemic has profoundly affected work operations and in recent months, and many have shifted their usual working environment at least temporarily to home offices. Our perceptions of modern work structures have changed and numerous employers are preparing for long-term modifications of their working processes after the return to »normal« life. The flexibility of future working models also depends on the applicable legislative framework. The currently applicable Employment Relationships Act proved to be rigid and in several aspects ambiguous which prompted calls for legislative changes.
In the near future, the regulatory changes of work at home are expected to be primarily subject of collective bargaining. This also enables tailoring the regulation to the specifics of work in an individual sector. In October 2020, the Strategic Council for Collective Bargaining of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, which unites the leaders of the negotiating groups of 25 collective agreements, determined the following common starting points and recommendations for collective bargaining regulation of work at home in the future:
- the possibility of temporary and occasional work at home is defined in an annex to the concluded employment contract;
- work at home is determined as a possible additional form of employment for a definite period of time;
- with regard to healthy and safe working conditions of work at home, the employer issues instructions to the employee and the employee declares that his/her work at home meets the requirements prescribed in the safety declaration with a risk assessment;
- determining the amount of compensation for the use of own working assets;
- determining the right to “disconnect” from electronic and technical devices after working time;
- defining the protection of employee privacy and business secrets.
According to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, collective bargaining is already underway regarding certain aspects of work at home that have proven to be necessary due to the coronavirus epidemic. The collective agreements for graphic activity and newspaper, publishing and bookselling activities (“newspaper activities”) have already been amended in line with the starting points set by the Strategic Council of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia. Interestingly, in relation to ensuring safety and health at work, it is now possible for the employer to control the appropriate conditions also by the employee providing the employer with appropriate photo material. The conditions under which work at home can be organized and the method of supervising the performed work are also prescribed. The collective agreement for newspaper activities also determines the minimum amount of compensation for the use of employee’s working assets (at least 0.75 EUR/day for the premise or at least 1.75 EUR/day for one’s technical assets). The collective agreement for the graphic activity left the regulation of this matter to collective bargaining at the level of the employer or employer’s internal acts, however, the amount may not be less than the depreciation of these assets.
Furthermore, first steps towards the preparation of legislative changes have also been taken. On 13 November 2020, the Economic and Social Council formed a working group to prepare the amendments to the Employment Relationships Act. With respect to the most pressing problems, it is expected that amendments will relate to the possibility of regulating work from home with an annex to the employment contract and a more detailed regulation of obligations related to ensuring safety and health of work from home.
It is also worth mentioning that soon, work from home will no longer be just a subject of an agreement between the employee and the employer, but the employee will have an individual right to request to work remotely under certain conditions. In 2019, Directive 2019/1158 on work-life balance for parents and carers was adopted, which among others stipulates that Member States must guarantee workers with children up to a certain age (at least eight years) and carers the right to flexible working arrangements due to care. The employee will thus be able to schedule his own working hours, including remote work, and the employer will have to give reasons for rejection of such request. The directive must be implemented by August 2022.
In the near future we can expect several regulatory changes related to work from home that we will continue to monitor. This will be of particular interest to those planning to modernise their workplace.