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To a greater or lesser extent, offices worldwide are now softening the restrictions enabling and encouraging their employees to partially and gradually return to work.
However, for the foreseeable future on the other side of the coronavirus crisis, a combination of remote and office working seems to be the new norm in most businesses.
According to a British study, one in three office workers wants to continue working from home after the corona-virus threat is over.
Other surveys show that a realistic post-pandemic work scenario could involve up to three or four homeworking days a week, with one or two in-office days for many office workers.
Already in January 2018, the French government launched a new remote working law emphasizing office workers have the right to telework. If an employer refuses, they will have to justify their decision.
Today´s home working boom caused by the pandemic instructs most countries to develop and implement more accurate regulations for the benefit of both employees and companies.
For companies, it might raise serious challenges ensuring the health and safety of
employees, enabling a suitable homework environment and protecting corporate
and personal data. Photos: iStock
For companies, it might raise profound challenges ensuring the health and safety of employees, enabling a suitable homework environment and protecting personal and corporate data.
Here follows a brief status of the current legal home working practices in a series of countries:
In Germany, working from a home office is subject to the most strict regulations regarding employee protection and work safety measures. No German employee can be forced to work at the kitchen table on a random chair.
German employers are fully responsible for providing all equipment needed by the employees to perform work from home. It includes a laptop or notebook, a desk, a chair, a screen, a modem, and to cover additional costs.
Also, the employer must visit the employee’s home in order to run a risk assessment comprehensively instructing the employee on the potential dangers by working at home. Read more
According to a new draft law, employees in Spain working from home will have the right to suggest working hours and get teleworking expenses paid from their company.
The upcoming law aims to protect the rights of homeworking employees who increased from 5% to 36% of the Spanish workforce since the corona lockdown began.
In the future, companies must pay the total costs of working from home. Also, the law will establish the right to a flexible schedule that enables employees to make alterations to their working day after negotiating their hours of availability with their company. Read more
As France gradually reopens, the French government's advice remains the same as at the height of the lockdown: People who can work from home should continue to do so if possible.
From August or later, working from home should be allowed for people who are medically vulnerable or by companies that agreed with their staff to continue using the work from home option.
Cutting the space requirement from 4 to 1 sqm per employee will permit most businesses to reorganize all their employees in the workplace at the same time. Masks will only be recommended for workplaces if distance rules cannot be maintained. Read more
Most countries emphasize that employees, also in the future, should have the right
to flexible schedules and work from home in full compliance with their companies.
English employers are obliged to ensure the health and safety of homeworkers, as far as is reasonably practicable. They must provide their employees with adequate and safe equipment, including additional equipment if needed.
The companies must pay attention to their employees´ mental health risks of isolated homeworking, ensuring them to receive appropriate supervision and feedback, have regular contact with colleagues, and access to mental health support, if necessary.
In August, the Government took steps to ease the lockdown rules, telling employees to stop working from home and head back to their offices. Read more
The greater trend is for employees to return to the office in shifts to adhere to social distancing. Businesses with good tech networks and processes in place for offsite work are continuing to encourage working from home.
If office workers are able or permitted to work from home, they mostly do. Besides the tech/IT sector, other large businesses in finance etc. are staggering the return depending on the type of job role and floor space.
Following the Work Health and Safety laws, each employer must care for the health and safety of the employees. This duty extends to identifying and managing the risks in every workplace where office workers are engaged in carrying out work. Read more
Following the guidelines of the Norwegian health authorities, each company is free to decide whether to continue homeworking to reopen their offices fully or partly. Many have already reopened, while other larger employers still recommend their employees to work from home.
Employers must ensure that their employees´ home workstations adjust ergonomically with good chairs, lighting, ventilation, and adjustable displays.
Also, companies must´regard the mental health risks of prolonged homeworking, and the risks of data attacks, and breaches of data protection and confidentiality. Read more
According to the Dutch government, all employers and employees are permitted and advised to work from home as much as possible.
Companies are obligated to provide safe and healthy environments for employees working remotely. Employers are responsible for providing all equipment needed by the employees to perform work from home and for securing ergonomically safe and sufficient home offices.
Dutch labour market predicts that because efficiency and productivity didn’t decrease while people worked from, many companies are currently loosening their policies on working remotely after the coronavirus. Read more
Remote working is continuing for permitted employees. Some companies intend and plan to return to their physical offices by September at the earliest but others more likely not until 2021.
Businesses that cannot run with a home-office strategy get forced to reduce their staff or reduce the salaries of the office workers´ to avoid employee layoffs.
Several companies that are reopening their operations under Government authorization have announced work from home for extended periods. In early August, just seven of Mexico’s 32 states were able to reopen operations at 30 to 50% of their capacity, for selected industries. Read more
By Greek law, employers bear all costs related to telecommunication, devices, and equipment that their employees use for remote-working. Also, they are responsible for providing technical support to homeworking employees.
Recently, the authorities started inspections regarding employment conditions during home-working, following the employee complaints about home-working conditions that were in breach of Greek employment laws.
The Labor Ministry is preparing a new framework for teleworking instructing employers to adhere to contractual obligations and set working hours, respect the private lives of employees working from home and cover the cost of equipment required for the work to be carried out. Read more
Still, at the start of August Belgian companies of all sizes are advised to organize teleworking for every job position where this is possible.
To emphasize the measures, the Government introduced a new term, telehomework, in the context of the COVID-19 virus, which is a new form of working from private homes
Companies have to follow guidelines ensuring their employees to work in decent conditions with regard to their health and safety. Also, employers are responsible for providing the necessary work equipment like a computer, mobile phone, etc. Read more
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