Remote work – your questions answered
As of 7 April this year, new regulations on remote work are in force. They replaced the previous regulations related to telework and remote work based on the employer’s instructions under the special Covid Law. The current regulations comprehensively regulate the principles of remote work, the obligations of employer and employee, and covering the costs associated with remote work.
The most important questions and concerns related to remote work are answered below.
What is remote work?
Remote work is work performed wholly or partially at a place designated by the employee and agreed with the employer in each case (including at the employee’s home address) using means of direct communication at a distance (for example, e-mail, instant messaging, telephone).
Thus, remote work within the meaning of the new regulations is the permanent performance of work in the remote formula, as well as the provision of work only partially in the remote form (for example, four days a week or even one day a week)
Is hybrid work considered remote work?
Yes, working in the so-called hybrid mode – that is, part of the week from the office and part from the employee’s home – constitutes remote work within the meaning of the new regulations.
When can the transition to remote work be agreed upon?
Arrangements with the employee to perform remote work can take place:
- when concluding an employment contract, in which case the issue of remote employment should be specified in the wording of the employment contract
- during the course of employment (either at the initiative of the employer or at the request of the employee) – in which case the remote work arrangements will modify the existing terms of the employment relationship; such arrangements do not require written form.
How do we implement remote work in the organisation?
The answer to this question depends on whether the employer wants to immediately introduce remote work for a larger group of employees and make it a standard form of cooperation, or whether remote work will be used exceptionally, only for some employees.
In the first case, the appropriate form will be to conclude an agreement with the trade unions; in situations where unions are not active in the organisation or there has been no agreement with the union side, to publish and promote remote work regulations. Implementing remote work regulations requires consultation with employee representatives (at least two). Thus, it may still be necessary to conduct an election of employee representatives before enacting remote work regulations.
If, on the other hand, remote work is to cover only individual employees, it can be introduced without the above-mentioned intra-company regulations. Then it will be necessary to conclude an individual agreement directly with the employee concerned.
What must be included in the agreement with the unions / regulations on remote work?
Internal documents on remote work (agreement with trade unions or regulations on remote work) should specify the employees who are to be covered by remote work, the rules for the employer to cover the costs associated with the equipment and the use of this equipment in the performance of remote work (including the formula for covering these costs by the employer), the rules for contacting the remote employee, the rules for confirming attendance, issues of control of the performance of remote work, health and safety rules, and rules on inventory, installation or servicing of equipment.
Accordingly, these issues should be regulated in the individual agreement with the employee on the provision of remote work.
Can an employer impose remote work?
The new regulations provide for the possibility of the employer to issue an order for remote work. Such an order will be able to be issued in the following cases:
- during a state of emergency or a state of epidemic emergency, and for a period of three months after their cancellation
- during a period when it is temporarily impossible for the employer to provide safe and hygienic working conditions at the employee’s current workplace due to force majeure. It is necessary for the employee to have the premises and technical conditions for remote work – if an employee declares that they don’t have such conditions, an order for remote work will be impossible.
Is it always necessary to regulate remote work in formal documents?
No, it is possible to provide remote work without additional regulations and agreements. This form of remote work provision is called occasional remote work. The performance of work in this mode is limited to 24 days per calendar year.
What obligations are incumbent on the employer in connection with the introduction of remote work regulations?
The employer in connection with the introduction of remote work regulations will have quite extensive obligations. In particular, they will be obliged to:
- Provide the employee with materials and work tools, including technical equipment, necessary for the performance of remote work or pay an allowance for the use of other equipment for the provision of remote work
- Provide the employee with the installation, service, maintenance of work tools, including technical equipment, necessary for the performance of remote work, or pay the necessary costs associated with the installation, service, operation and maintenance of work tools, including technical equipment, necessary for the performance of remote work, as well as pay the costs of electricity and telecoms services necessary for the performance of remote work
- Cover other costs related to the performance of remote work
- Provide the employee with the training and technical assistance necessary to work remotely
- Determine the procedure for protecting personal data while carrying out remote work
- Prepare an occupational risk assessment account for the work to be performed remotely
Is it possible to opt out of remote work?
Yes. In the case of the introduction of remote work during the course of the employment relationship, both employer and employee can make a binding request to stop remote work and restore previous terms and conditions of employment. The restoration of the previous terms and conditions of employment – the termination of remote work – should take place within the period agreed upon by the parties; this period may not be longer than 30 days from the date of receipt of the aforementioned request. If the employer and the employee do not agree on a date for the cessation of remote work, the return to the previous working conditions will take place on the day following the expiration of 30 days from the date of receipt of the request.
The exceptions are employees referred to in Article 67(19) § 6 and 7 of the Labour Code (e.g a pregnant employee, an employee raising a child up to the age of four) – in their case, the employer may not make a binding request to stop remote work, unless it’s impossible to continue remote work due to the organisation of work or the type of work carried out by the employee.
How is the employer to cover costs of electricity and telecoms services necessary for remote work?
These costs can be covered according to the calculations made based on the bills submitted by the employee. Another way is to establish a lump sum, the amount of which will correspond to the expected costs incurred by the employee in connection with the performance of remote work. In determining the amount of such a lump sum, one must consider usual electricity consumption and the cost of telecoms services. It is also recommended considering the actual volume of remote work.
Do health and safety regulations from the Labour Code apply to remote work?
Yes, when working remotely, the health and safety regulations of the Labour Code apply. Admittedly, with remote work, there are no obligations on the employer to provide a safe room and building for the provision of work, but the employer still has an obligation to inform the employee of health and safety requirements and carry out other health and safety obligations.
In addition, employees are also required to comply with OSH regulations. It is the responsibility of employees who perform work remotely to ensure safe and sanitary working conditions at the remote work site.
Can a remote worker be treated differently from a standard employee?
No, an employee performing remote work cannot be treated less favourably with respect to the establishing and terminating the employment relationship; terms and conditions of employment; promotion, or access to training for improving professional qualifications, than other employees engaged in the same or similar work, accounting for the distinctive qualities of remote work.
What next for telework?
If telework has been implemented in an organisation, it will be allowed to continue, but for a maximum period of six months from the date of entry into force of the law. After this period, telework will have to be replaced by remote work under the new regulations.