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    The Implementation of Telework Law Framework

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    The implementation of the remote working law framework. Article by Irene Kattami, Senior Associate at Ioannides Demetriou LLC

    The landscape of work has undergone significant transformation in recent years, which was particularly accelerated by the global pandemic. Teleworking has become increasingly common, prompting the need for a clear legislative framework to govern its implementation. This need has been addressed with the House of Representatives’ approval of a comprehensive framework regulating remote working. The Framework for Telework of 2023 Legislation (the “Law”), which came into effect on December 1, 2023, aims to establish guidelines and protections for both employers and employees navigating the remote work environment.

    The Law stipulates that teleworking can be implemented under the following circumstances: (i) an optional teleworking scheme may be adopted subject to a written agreement entered into between the employer and the employee, (ii) mandatory teleworking may be imposed under a Decree issued by the Minister of Health due to public health considerations and (iii) mandatory teleworking may be required for an employee whose health is demonstrably at risk, which can be mitigated by refraining from working on the employer’s premises.

    Apart from prescribing the conditions under which teleworking can be established, the Law also delineates the responsibilities that the employer bears towards the employee. Firstly, among these obligations is the coverage of expenses incurred by the employee related to teleworking. These expenses include various aspects, such as equipment costs (unless agreed to utilize the employer’s equipment), telecommunications, usage of the home workspace, and the maintenance and repair of equipment. Moreover, the employer bears the responsibility of ensuring that the employee receives the essential technical support required for their work. To further regulate the financial aspects, the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance is expected to issue a Decree specifying the minimum teleworking cost payable to the employee. Importantly, the Law stipulates that any expenses covered by employers will not be considered as part of the employee’s remuneration, but they are deemed as deductible expenses, exempted from both social insurance and taxation.

    In maintaining consistency with the aforementioned responsibilities, the employer is obliged, among other things and in addition to those outlined in the Occupational Safety and Health Law 1996 to (i) have at their disposal a suitable and sufficient written risk assessment of the existing teleworking risks, (ii) determine the preventive and protective measures to be taken based on the written risk assessment, (iii) provide such information, instructions, and training to ensure the safety and health of their employees. Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for employees, whether they work from home or in a workplace.

    Furthermore, the Law requires that employers should provide certain information to employees regarding teleworking, within eight (8) days from the date of commencement of such arrangement. This information includes:
    a) The employee’s right to disconnect;
    b) An analysis of the extend of teleworking costs incurred by the employer;
    c) The equipment necessary for the provision of services remotely and the procedures in place for the technical support, maintenance and repair of the equipment;
    d) Any restrictions on the use of the equipment and any penalties in case of violation of the restrictions;
    e) The agreement regarding remote readiness, it’s time limits and the response deadlines of the teleworking employee;
    f) An evaluation of the risks associated with remote work and measures taken by the employer for their prevention based on the risk assessment;
    g) The responsibility to protect and secure the professional and personal data of the teleworking employee and the relevant procedure to comply with such obligation;
    h) The supervisor from whom the teleworker will receive instructions.

    Any information which does not have to be personalised and addressed to teleworking employees, can be communicated to appropriate personnel through the employer’s internal policies.

    Employees engaged in teleworking have the equivalent rights and obligations as their counterparts working on-site at the employer’s premises, including rights or obligations concerning their workload, assessment criteria and procedures, compensation, access to employer-related information, training, professional development, and where applicable trade union activity including their unhindered and confidential communication with trade union representatives.

    A key protection established by the Law is the employees’ right to disconnect in order for the provisions of the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Law to be implemented. Employers and employees’ representatives are required to agree on the technical and organizational methods to ensure that remote employees can disconnect from electronic communication without any adverse consequences. If no such agreement is reached, employers must still notify employees of this right.
    Moreover, the Law also sets out the duties and powers of Inspectors, who are officials of the Ministry and/or other public servants appointed by the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance. Their primary responsibility is to ensure the thorough and effective enforcement of the provisions of the Law. Failure to comply with the provisions of the Law could render employers liable, with potential fines upon conviction not exceeding €10.000.

    In conclusion, the Framework for Telework of 2023 represents a significant step towards formalizing and protecting the evolving landscape of remote work. This legislation not only establishes clear guidelines and responsibilities for both employers and employees but also ensures a fair and supportive environment for teleworking. By addressing key aspects such as expense coverage, health and safety requirements, and the right to disconnect, the Law aims to create a balanced framework that promotes productivity while safeguarding employee well-being. As teleworking becomes an integral part of the modern work environment, the effective implementation and adherence to this framework will be crucial in fostering a sustainable and equitable remote working culture.

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