Dutch are first to set up framework on remote work

Dutch employees have had a legal framework for home working since 2001. (Rawpixel pic)

PARIS: 24 days. That’s the minimum amount of time that a German employee could soon be entitled to work remotely each year.

In Germany, a bill is currently being prepared that may well introduce a new labour standard.

While the country may be among the first to legislate telework, other countries have not waited for the global health crisis to entrench the rights of teleworkers.

The European Union has already encouraged its member states to increasingly secure the status of employees working from home or remotely.

A historic agreement was in fact reached in 2002, signed by European social partners so that each country could have its own legislation on telework.

Rather than a uniform text establishing the same teleworking conditions for a Dutch, Polish or Greek employee, it is a European legal framework that aims to ensure, for the citizens concerned, the same rights for employees working from home as those working in the office.

Working from home in Europe

But even before Europe ruled on this form of work, the Dutch had already decided to set up a framework around telework in June 2001.

And contrary to what one might think, this does not specifically concern employees in the private sector.

Civil servants have the right to request one or more telework days per week. A simple agreement must be reached between the employee and his boss.

And, icing on the cake, the Dutch government even pays civil servants a monthly compensation of 80.23 euros for the use of their personal space.

They can even enjoy a bonus of 1,815 euros over a period of five years for equipping themselves.

No wonder then that the Netherlands is the European champion of telework, with 14.1% of the working population working remotely.

Even further north in Europe, Finland counts the same percentage of teleworkers.

In this country, where employees already have the right to adjust their working hours thanks to a dedicated law passed in 1996, it was decided to go even further in terms of flexibility with a second part of this “working hours act,” which came into force at the start of 2020.

This new legislation makes it possible to organize 50% of working hours as Finnish employees wish, bearing in mind that a standard work week in Finland is 35-40 hours.

Following the example of the Dutch, Luxembourgers preferred a legislative framework to authorize telework, including for cross-border employees.

An agreement was adopted in 2006 and again in 2011. In short, the recognition of the different forms of telework in the Grand Duchy is not new.

The terms of the agreement must be written into the employment contract, or its rider, including the hours and days of teleworking or the place where the tasks are performed.

Teleworking in the future

While Germany is not the first country to look into legislation dedicated to telework, it is the first European country to outline a specific bill whose principles must be validated by parliament.

The most important being the introduction of a minimum of 24 days of telework. These new provisions should undoubtedly increase the rate of teleworkers, which is only 5.2%.

Change is also afoot in Spain, where the culture of telework was almost absent before the pandemic. The country is working above all to protect the rights of employees working from home.

After several months of negotiations, the decree provides for the authorization of telework equivalent to 30% of an employee’s total hours over a period of three months.

In concrete terms, this represents one and a half days per week. Also, employers must pay for the cost of the equipment required for telework.

And the rest of the world?

Teleworkers are not always who you think they are. A Morar Consulting study for Polycom reported in 2017 that 80% of Brazilians teleworked often, if not occasionally.

And they have every right to do so since before the covid crisis; all they needed was an amendment to their employment contract.

A law called MP 927 was even passed last spring to relax the legislative framework for telework, allowing trainees and apprentices, for example, to telework too

In many countries around the world, the coronavirus crisis has prompted new thinking about the implementation of telework, often with reservations despite the health situation, as in Japan. Last April, only full-time employees were allowed to carry out their tasks from home.

Part-time employees, for example, have not been able to enjoy this flexibility. There is still a long way to go to make teleworking a universal habit.