A few countries have started regulating the remote working model to ensure employers can create new jobs, give access to opportunities to more sectors of the labour market and give staff members more flexibility.
Regulation Is Not Always a Dirty Word
Talks of regulation often prompt negative reactions, particularly when it come to market forces. In the job market, regulation can guarantee the rights of employees and a fair treatment.
The European Commission’s employment committee has been working to find the right balance when regulating remote working to ensure more groups of workers can be included and to guarantee a better work/life balance.
Any regulatory measures aim to give teleworkers more protection, especially considering that, although remote working offers a better work/life balance on paper, it can also be a cause of stress if there are not enough opportunities to switch off from work.
The downside of regulation for employers is that it attracts fines for non-compliance. If a business is already strapped for cash this can be a major issue.
Countries that Have Started Regulating Remote Working
A few countries in Europe have led the way to give more structure to remote working and its availability. This is a snapshot including a few examples.
Portugal has witnessed that the percentage of the working population in remote employment went up from 0.05% in 2014 to 12.3% in 2021. Portugal has made a head start compared to other countries by creating a temporary framework for remote working since the beginning of 2021. The regulatory measures including making remote working mandatory if the nature of the job and the staff member’s living conditions are conducive to it. This also means that the employer has to be able to provide the necessary equipment.
If employers don’t comply with current regulations they can be fined heavily (thousands of euros).
Ireland has seen a rise in remote working and this caused the creation of plans to offer flexible working.
Plans include making at least hybrid working models available where staff members can work between the office and their home. Employers will need compelling reasons to refuse remote working to their staff members and will need to provide equipment for teleworking. Public sector workers will benefit from home working at least 20% of the time.
France has limited regulations in place but the most important one is that employers need very strong reasons to refuse the ability to work from home.
Germany issued legislation to make remote working compulsory as of January 2021. Employers can show proof that their organisation is not able to make provisions for home working and they need strong evidence to support their claim.
The matter of home working is not about it being mandatory for the staff member if that does not suit the situation. It is about offering flexibility.
Spain has regulation for remote working including giving people the right to disconnect. It introduced a pilot scheme for a four day working week, with financial incentives totalling 50 million euros in funding for companies.
Romania opted to offer incentives to employer to provide equipment for remote working in the form of exempting tax on employee teleworking expenses, so that they can be deductible.
Other countries are at various degrees of progress in introducing regulations.
Ultimately the emphasis is on the rights of remote workers. While hefty penalties are likely to become a burden to businesses and will likely need to be reconsidered, having a clear framework in place seems to be the best option to protect both employers and their staff.