Which European States Want to Officially Adopt Remote Work Regulations
The widespread adoption of telework in 2020, due to the pandemic context, has revealed numerous legal gaps in this regard in most European countries. On the other hand, nowadays, it’s easy to see that remote work is no longer just an exception to the rule. Thus, governments face the urgent need to formally regulate the concept of work from anywhere.
Prior to the pandemic, a relatively small number of states had already established remote work regulations (telework) specific legislation or collective agreements. However, no real updating of labour law takes place in all European countries.
Which European countries intend to adopt specific remote work legislation?
From the perspective of the frequent changes in the labour market, France is famous because, since 2016, it has implemented certain mechanisms to create boundaries between professional and private life through the so-called “right to disconnect”.
Even if remote work is not implicitly mentioned in job descriptions, French employers must come up with a good reason to refuse an employee this benefit.
- United Kingdom
The UK’s plans to regulate remote work are not yet clear enough. As reported by The Guardian, the office of the British Prime Minister announced in June 2021 that it plans to adopt specific legislation so that remote work becomes the default option, practically giving employees the right to request it.
As well as Finland and Luxembourg, Iceland has the highest percentage of remote employees on the continent. In other words, over 20% of the employed population are still in jobs that offer the opportunity to work remotely. Therefore, the government of Iceland intends to adopt a hybrid work model plan for the relevant industries by 2022.
[Read more here about the 4-day workweek – a pilot program successfully implemented in Iceland.]
At the same time, all public service workers will be encouraged to spend up to 20% of their time outside the office. There will also be new rules according to which organizations will buy safe and appropriate equipment for those who choose to work from home.
At the moment, Russia is mainly considering providing financial support for remote employees. Therefore, employers have an obligation to provide the equipment and means necessary to fulfil the work tasks properly. At the same time, financial backing may include reimbursement of certain expenses, such as software, ergonomic chairs, and desks.
Which states have already adopted remote work regulations?
Portugal was the first country in Europe to explore a legal regime for teleworking. However, the legal provisions will take effect as long as the state of emergency is considered necessary, respectively by the end of this year.
Provisions that have been in force since January 2021 include compulsory remote work and the employer’s duty to provide the equipment necessary to get the job done.
Violations of the mentioned normative acts are considered “very serious misconduct” and can attract fines between 2,040 and 61,200 euros, regardless of the size of the company.
At the same time, the Portuguese Parliament has recently adopted new provisions, thus introducing additional measures to protect employees working remotely.
Therefore, companies should not contact staff outside of working hours, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Also, at least every two months, in order to limit the appearance of isolation, superiors have the obligation to organize face-to-face meetings with the rest of the team.
Germany is the only country in Europe that has officially regulated the notion of remote work in the long run. In January last year, it became mandatory for organizations to offer staff the opportunity to work remotely, as long as there are no “compelling operational reasons for not doing so”.
Local authorities may contact non-compliant companies in order to explain their reasons for refusing employees this option. An important aspect: the German law on remote work states the obligation of employees to record their work schedule but also clarifies that it is intended as a form of protection for them.
A remote working law that took effect in Austria on April 1, 2021, clarified certain issues, such as the definition of remote work. The law also requires employers and employees to negotiate such an option and establishes the arrangements for providing work equipment or compensation payments. Moreover, it allows remote work agreements to be negotiated by union representatives.
Thus, if employees use their own devices or internet connection, employers will be obliged to pay a lump sum compensation to cover the necessary costs. Furthermore, remote employees are subject to normal working time laws, including rest periods, and they must record their working hours. Employers and employees may agree to adjust work schedules.
In less than two years, remote work has become the “new norm” for millions of Europeans. Most companies would not have survived the effects of the pandemic without the help of online digital infrastructure. Therefore, questions are now being asked about the laws that organizations should abide by when it comes to remote work, given its growing popularity in some industries.