With the rise of technology, work from home has been a steadily growing trend for many years. Remote working has exploded since spring 2020 with quarantines, workplace closures and lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least for jobs and industries that do not always require workers to be on-site.
This abrupt worldwide shift to remote work sparked new logistical and structural legal challenges that warranted many countries to pass teleworking legislation, some of which is summarized in this article.
New teleworking legislation varies widely across the countries. While some countries introduced their first teleworking general legal framework, other countries passed more detailed measures. This article will only cover permanent teleworking legislation that has entered into effect since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Temporary COVID-19 related measures, as well as proposed legislation not yet passed as of the publication of this article, will not be addressed.
Teleworking law (No. 27,555) and Regulatory Decree No. 27/202, entered into effect on 1 April 2021. The new legislation, which applies to partially and entirely remote employees, introduced the following obligations:
- The employer is now required to establish a written teleworking agreement for each employee. The agreement must outline parties’ obligations and agreement in advance on the working hours.
- Employees’ right to disconnect after completion of their working hours.
- A flexible working schedule should be available to employees with children under 13 years of age in their care, or if the employee has people with disabilities or retired adults who live with them.
- Employers are required to provide teleworkers with necessary work tools and bear their installation, repairs and maintenance costs.
- Employers are required to reimburse employees for teleworking-related expenses which are not normally incurred by employees. This can include compensation for the use of employees’ own tools and partial reimbursement of employees’ internet services.
- Remote employees should enjoy the same rights as on-site employees.
On 14 July 2020, the Belgium government released its initial circular letter (2020/C/100) granting employees working from home a monthly, employer-paid, tax-free work from home allowance, retroactive to 1 March 2020. The tax-free allowance applies to full-time and part-time employees working from home on a regular basis (at least one day per week/five days per month). The allowance has been temporarily increased to EUR 144,31 from 1 April 2021, to 30 June 2021. Employers should monitor for new maximums.
The Belgian government released a second circular (2020/C/100) clarifying the terms of the allowance effective from 1 March 2021. This measure lists the office expenses (the use of the office space, maintenance, insurance, property tax, snacks, office supplies, printer and computer equipment, and utilities) that are covered under the tax-free work from home allowance. In addition, the measure extends the tax-free status to additional reimbursements or provision of equipment. Originally a temporary measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Belgian Minister of Finance recently confirmed it is a permanent measure.
On 1 April 2020, the Chilean government passed a remote working law called the Distance Working and Teleworking law (No 21,220). Prior to the law, there was no legislation covering teleworking arrangements in Chile. The new law makes a distinction between distance working (when services are provided from home or a location other than the company’s establishment, work site or branch) and teleworking (when services are provided by an employee remotely using technology tools). According to the law, both distance working and teleworking require a written remote working agreement that should be registered with the Chilean department of work within 15 days of signing the agreement. The written agreement must, among other things, state the location where the services will be performed. Remote workers should be able to enjoy the same rights and protections as other employees. In addition, the law introduces a right for employees to disconnect after working hours are completed as agreed upon between the parties. If the employer and the employee agree on a flexible distribution of the working hours without a clear work schedule, employees are still entitled to a right to disconnect for a minimum of 12 consecutive in a 24-hour period. Employers are required to provide remote employees with necessary work tools and bear their installation, repair and maintenance costs. In addition, remote employees should enjoy the same rights as on-site employees.
A new legal framework for teleworking implementing the latest version of the social partners’ collective agreement entered into force on 2 February 2021. The convention will remain valid for three years from its entry into force. The main changes include:
- A wider definition of telework – the new definition does not restrict telework to work from home anymore. It is now defined as the work performed outside the premises of the employer.
- Introduction of the new concept of “occasional teleworking,” defined as “teleworking carried out to deal with unforeseen events or when teleworking represents less than 10% on average of the teleworker’s normal annual working time.” Occasional teleworking is now also considered regular teleworking. However, unlike regular teleworking, occasional teleworking does not require a written agreement as a simple written confirmation (eg., email) will suffice, nor is the employer required to provide work equipment or bear the associated costs.
- Teleworking now requires the written agreement of both the employee and the employer outlining the place of telework, the working hours, telework allowance (if any), overtime, benefits in kind, etc. The written agreement may result from an individual agreement with an employee, from a collective bargaining agreement or a company agreement.
- Employees have a right to disconnect after working hours and should have the same rights as on-site employees.
- Employers should provide teleworkers with the necessary equipment to carry out their work.
- All remote employees should be able to enjoy the same rights and protections as other employees. This includes all benefits in kind that on-site workers are entitled to but excludes compensations specifically linked with the employee’s presence on-site such as a gym or parking space.
The Mexican government passed amendments to the federal labor law on teleworking. The amendments clarify existing teleworking regulations and create new obligations for both employers and employees.
The reform took effect on 12 January 2021. The reform applies to any worker who performs paid work activities at least 40% of the time outside the employer’s workplace, either at home or another location chosen by the employee. Employers are now mandated to:
- Provide, install, and maintain the necessary working equipment and training needed by the employee to perform the work.
- Pay for any appropriate telework-related cost.
- Record teleworking arrangements in a written agreement.
For more details, please see our previous compliance update here.
Legislation on remote work, amending the Russian Labor Code, entered into effect on 1 January 2021. The legislation introduces the following changes:
- There are now three different types of remote working agreements: permanent teleworking, combined agreements when teleworking does not exceed six consecutive months per year, and combined agreements when employees can alternate between remote working and on-site working. Prior to the new legislation, only permanent teleworking was regulated.
- Teleworking agreements should be written and outline all remote arrangements, including the working hours, the location of telework, etc.
- Employers now have the right to introduce mandatory teleworking in exceptional circumstances such as a pandemic. The terms and conditions of this new right should be outlined in employers’ internal policies.
- Employers are required to provide remote employees with necessary work tools and bear their installation, repairs, and maintenance costs.
New legislation on remote work, amending the Slovak Labor Code, entered into effect on 1 March 2021. The legislation introduces the following changes:
- Working from home must be agreed upon between the employer and the employee in writing in an employment contract.
- Teleworking may be performed anywhere outside the employer’s premises. It is no longer necessary to be only performed from the home of the employee.
- Employees and employers may agree that employees will determine their own working hours for more flexibility. In that case, the employee may lose its entitlement to certain salary premiums.
- Employees’ right to disconnect outside working hours must be agreed upon between the parties.
- Employers are now required to reimburse employees for increased expenses related to telework as agreed upon in the collective agreement or negotiated in the employment contract.
- Teleworkers should enjoy the same rights as on-site employees.
Royal Decree-law 28/2020 providing a new legal framework for remote work was passed on 22 September 2020. The legislation applies only to “regular” remote working when at least 30% of the employee’s total hours over any three-month period are carried out remotely. All remote working arrangements should now be established in a written agreement and on a voluntary basis. Remote employees should enjoy the same rights as on-site employees. In addition, employers are required to provide employees with the necessary tools to perform their job and cover expenses related to remote work. Reimbursement of the expenses and details on what should be provided to enable the remote work of employees must be agreed upon between the employee and the employer in the employment contract unless already established by a collective agreement.
The Turkish government passed legislation clarifying the existing legal framework of remote work. The new remote work legislation entered into effect on 10 March 2021. Remote work is defined as the work performed outside the employer’s workplace using technology tools. The main changes include:
- The obligation to establish a written remote work agreement including the location where the job will be performed, the working hours, the communication methods between the employer and the employee, any additional compensation related to the telework, the equipment that will be provided, etc.
- The employer is required to provide teleworkers with the necessary tools and equipment to perform the job.
- Expenses related to telework should be reimbursed by the employer to the employee. Compensation for such expenses should be agreed upon between the employee and reflected in the employment contract.
- Employees can start working remotely upon hiring or may be hired to work on-site and agree with the employer to be converted to remote work later on. The employment contract should reflect the change. Mutual consent of both the employee and the employer is needed to switch from on-site work to remote work, except for in unforeseen circumstances. In such cases, employers can unilaterally decide that employees should work remotely.
Law N 4051, which entered into force on 27 February 2021, introduced a new legal framework for remote work. The law distinguishes between:
- Home-based work defined as the work that is done from home or a designated location agreed upon between the employer and the employee. Such work arrangement is more structured as employers can inspect employees’ remote workspace and employees are required to follow regular work hours (unless agreed otherwise). In addition, employment agreements including should be established in writing and the location may not be changed unless approved by the employer.
- Remote work is a more flexible option that allows employees to work from any location of the employee’s choosing and according to their own schedule. Remote work arrangements should be established in writing unless emergency circumstances preventing it (such as a pandemic).
The employer is required to provide remote and home-based work employees with the necessary tools and equipment to perform the job. Expenses related to remote and home-based work arrangements should be reimbursed by the employer to the employee.
In addition, the law introduced a specific provision for flexible working hours. Flexible working hours may be available at the request of the employee or at the initiative of the employer in the following circumstances:
- When there is a substantial change in working conditions (with two months’ notice).
- When there is a threat of epidemic or any emergency (no prior notice is needed).