The possibility of teleworking remains common practice, and experience shows that it remains with us with varying degrees of intensity, regardless of the fluctuations in the epidemic situation. But the area has been calling for more detailed regulation for some time. The legislator has now responded to these needs by amending Government Decree 487/2020 (11 November) on the application of the rules on teleworking during the state of danger, hidden in the legislative dumping before the summer shutdown.
The continued lifting of protective measures has shed new light on teleworking: From May 2021, the Government no longer recommends the use of a "home office" for companies. However, people's attitudes have changed and workers see an advantage in being able to work from home at least on certain days. The legislator is trying to follow this and reflect the new needs at the legislative level.
Government Decree 487/2020 (11 November) has undergone several amendments recently, but the current changes, which will enter into force on 03 July 2021, stand out a little because they seem to be more comprehensive, but the different provisions are now only for the duration of the emergency.
Teleworking - new rules effective from 3 July 2021
The innovation of the current Decree now affects both the provisions on labour protection, the Personal Income Tax Act and the Labour Code.
Health and safety rules
Under the new Decree, teleworking can include not only computer-based activities but also other forms of employment.
The effective Decree not only contains more extensive rules but also defines two categories of teleworking:
- one is teleworking by non-computer means, which is a completely new concept, where the employer has to certify the workplace as suitable in advance,
- and the other is the classic, computer teleworking, in which case the employer must inform the employee in writing of the safe working conditions (e.g. table, chair, lighting) necessary for the work to be carried out in a way that does not endanger health, and which the employee can take into account when choosing where to work.
In addition, more detailed rules apply to the control of the workplace: the law stipulates who can enter the property, for what purpose and when prior authorisation is required.
The Decree only lays down general rules, which only apply if the parties have not deviated from them, so the agreement of the parties can be particularly important in the context of teleworking.
Personal Income Tax Act
In this case, there is a minor adjustment, the flat rate itself is nothing new. The adjustment is that this year, unusually, the minimum wage decree does not apply from the first day of the tax year, but only from February. For this reason, the figures or calculation methods linked to the minimum wage applicable on the first day of the tax year do not take into account the minimum wage currently in force, which the amendment has eliminated.
Although many rules are repeated in the Decree, there are still some provisions that seem surprisingly new compared to the previous ones. The most unexpected innovation - although it is possible to derogate by agreement in this case - is that an employee may work on the employer's premises for up to one-third of the working days in the year in question, so the Decree makes it a general rule that teleworking may be performed on the employer's premises, but only for up to one-third of the total number of working days.
Within the EU, the right of accession has been an issue since the beginning of the year. The aim of the action plan to protect workers is to ensure that teleworking does not lead to a mix of work and private life, i.e. that flexibility does not mean a permanent on-call obligation. The main reason why this is difficult to achieve is that it is precisely the flexible working hours that have become the main rule under the teleworking regulation that makes teleworking attractive for most people. However, the fact is, that it is also important, in order to safeguard the mental health of employees, to limit the mandatory or, in many cases, internally motivated permanent availability of workers. It cannot be denied that this is a very difficult task, since it is rather complicated to formulate general expectations at the legal level due to the diversity of expectations, but many problems can be overcome by creative solutions in the drafting of contracts, e.g. by introducing a base-period and marginal-period working time instead of a full flexible working time, if the parties have the necessary insight and the ability to compromise.
As the current amendments are now also only for the duration of the emergency, it is still questionable whether the new provisions are worthwhile in the long term. Given that the regulation presents a fairly consistent picture, it is expected that this package of amendments will be integrated into our legal system after the emergency. This means that a lot more care will be needed on the part of the employer if they want to employ workers on a teleworking basis, as traditional template contracts - at least on their own - will not be suitable to meet all requirements.