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Spain looks to Europe to regulate teleworking

The limited experience the Spanish had before COVID. contrasts with that of EU countries where remote work was common

The confinement of the  coronavirus  has meant the first widespread experience of  telework in Spain. Although up to a third of Spanish workers began to practice from their homes after the declaration of the state of alarm, before this the number of regular teleworkers did not exceed 10%. To adapt the regulations to this new reality, the Ministry of Labour has already taken the first steps for a new regulation of remote work. With an eye on Europe, where this type of working day was much more standardized even before the virus erupted. Switzerland, France, Germany or  Austria are some examples of countries with more extensive experiences. In Switzerland for example. rent must be paid by the company

Although the pandemic in Switzerland also triggered telework rates, the legislation of the transalpine republic already contemplates an extensive series of associated rights.

On May 25, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that companies are obliged to pay part of the rent for their employees if they, (as has happened during confinement) have been sent home by their companies. Based on a 2019 ruling, the country’s largest judicial body remarked that the worker could request that payment retroactively even though he had not previously reached an agreement with the company’s leaders and even if he had left the company.

Experts cited by the Swiss press emphasize that the law requires employers to reimburse their employees for the costs of working from home, which could include Internet connection, the electricity fee or even the cost of a chair. This would only happen in the case of contracted workers, not with the self-employed. The monthly compensation for the employee’s rent should be 150 francs (just over 140 euros).

For specialists, it will be key to study each case to solve doubts such as knowing who asked to work from home, a question that can be crucial to tip the balance on the side of the employer or the worker.

In France, employers and unions have agreed to make a decision between now and the end of September about the period of confinement and, although the opinions vary, if they all agree on something, it is that working from home is one hundred per cent non-desirable.

The legislation of the neighboring country stipulates since 2012 that teleworking is voluntary and the person who exercises it has exactly the same rights – access to the company doctor, social coverage, vacations, training, union rights, etc. – as other workers. An oral or written agreement between the parties is enough to start exercising the professional activity outside the place authorized by the company, which must respect the regulations on working hours and previously agree on time slots.

In practice, it means that a worker cannot be blamed for not being reachable during the weekend, at night or when on vacation. It is a way of preserving personal and family life and applies to everyone, from managers to hourly wage earners. Its compliance must be guaranteed through a collective agreement or internal regulation to which the works council has given its approval.

In Germany, there is no explicit and legal right to work from home. If it occurs, it is due to an agreement between the company and the employee within the framework of the collective agreement, or if there is not, the result of an individual agreement between the worker and the company.

The company must provide its workers with the technical material necessary to carry out the work, respect working hours and breaks, and guarantee data protection. The federal government also recommends that employers increase the flow of information for their workers either through ‘mail’ or corporate intranets, since personal contact with them is significantly reduced.

Since digitization is essential to enable remote work, and since it has been one of the primary objectives of the German government for years, the federal Ministry of Labour has also launched a funding program to support creative and innovative initiatives that facilitate, among other things, teleworking. Artificial intelligence is one of the points that Berlin gives preference in this private sector financing program.

In  Austria, there has also been an increase in work from home since the start of the pandemic. As in their neighboring country, the employer cannot unilaterally compel its workers to work from home. You can only compel it if it is expressly stated in the labour contract or the collective agreement. The company will have to specify how long the teleworking measure will last and will have to take into account the expenses derived from the use of private material, or other expenses such as telephone or internet.

Despite the legal loopholes that still exist in Austria regarding the implementation of teleworking, a recent survey commissioned by the job search portal StepStone, points out that more than half of Austrians (53%) who worked from home because of of the pandemic would like to continue to do so in the future.

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