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Global: Many countries introducing new regulations on teleworking

Health and Benefits|Total Rewards|Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

May 11, 2021

The increase in remote working brought on by the pandemic has led to a marked increase in telework legislation globally, varying by country.

Employer Action Code: Act

For many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major changes in policies and practices around remote working, or “telework” — information technology (IT)-enabled remote work — particularly in those countries hardest hit by the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. The sudden switch to remote working was driven by necessity and has generally worked better than expected, but in many places, it occurred in many places in a regulatory and policy limbo in the absence of specific laws and policies on the practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 10% of the U.S. labor force worked from home to any extent prior to the pandemic, with only about a quarter of staff with the option of working remotely doing so. In the European Union, over half of the employees working remotely during the pandemic had never done so before, according to the European Commission. Not surprisingly, in response there has been a marked recent increase in legislation on telework globally, some of which is summarized below. The nature and extent of new regulations vary widely by country, ranging from introducing the first statutory framework governing teleworking to allowing employers to take specific actions on a preferential basis voluntarily (such as covering employee costs). Note: Temporary COVID-19-related measures are not included in the below summary.

Key details

New regulations on teleworking
Country Key changes
Argentina Effective April 1, 2021, Teleworking Contracts Law (Law 27,555) establishes that employees working primarily on a remote basis enjoy the same rights and protections as other workers, including limitations on working hours and the “right to disconnect,” and that applicable provisions should be reflected in the employment contract. Employers are responsible for reimbursing teleworkers' expenses related to internet services, IT equipment and other tools/services.
Chile The Distance Working and Teleworking Law (Law 21,220) came into effect on April 1, 2020. Both teleworking and distance working arrangements require written agreements with employees that must be registered with the Labor Directorate within 15 days of signing. Workers enjoy the same rights and entitlements as other employees as well as the “right to disconnect” (at least 12 continuous hours per 24-hour period).
Colombia Congress approved legislation in early April 2021 to establish a regulatory framework for temporary “home office” work as separate and distinct from the existing framework for teleworkers (employees who normally work remotely). The bill would allow employers to implement home office work for up to three months (with the possibility of extension) by written notice to employees, indicating the expected duration of the home office work period. Home office workers would retain their employment rights, entitlements and protections, and would have the “right to disconnect” outside of normal working hours. The transportation allowance for employees earning up to two times the minimum wage would be replaced with a connectivity allowance. The employer would also be required to provide employees with the equipment necessary to work from home.
Costa Rica Law No. 9,738, approved in September 2019, predates the pandemic and is intended to encourage remote working, as an alternative to conventional office arrangements, from the start of employment. It established a statutory framework for teleworking, requiring a written agreement detailing full terms and conditions. Employers may revoke the arrangement based on reasonable grounds with 10 days’ notice. Teleworkers generally enjoy the same rights and protections as other employees. Working schedules may be flexible, as long as they comply with working time limits under the Labor Code. Employees are required to stay available (online) when working and provide 24 hours’ notice if unable to work for personal reasons.
Ireland The government launched a National Remote Work Strategy in January 2021, intended “to ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace” in order to maximize economic, social and environmental benefits. The government still has to develop legislation on the right to work remotely, but it issued a Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect in April 2021, which maintains that employees should not be required to work, be available or responsive to employer needs outside of working hours on a regular basis nor should employers routinely contact employees outside of working hours or penalize staff for declining to work or respond outside of normal working hours.
Mexico Amendments to the Federal Labor Law, effective January 12, 2021, introduced the concept of “teleworkers” (defined as staff dependent upon IT/telecommunications equipment for contact and instruction from their employer and working remotely at least 40% of the normal workweek). In addition to the provision and maintenance of equipment, employers are required to reimburse employee costs related to telecommunication services and electricity consumption. A description of these payments and amounts provided must be stipulated in the contract of employment, internal work rules and collective bargaining agreement, if any. Employees are required to provide timely information to their employer on their use of telecommunication services and related electricity consumption, in line with agreed costs.
Russia Labor Code amendments, effective January 1, 2021, expanded the circumstances under which remote work is possible, in order to introduce greater flexibility by allowing temporary or partial teleworking in response to changing circumstances (previously, the code only regulated remote work on a permanent basis). Arrangements should be established by written mutual consent (in the employment contract or as an addendum). When remote working is required due to an emergency, employers may act unilaterally but their internal work rules should reflect applicable terms and conditions.
Spain Royal Decree Law 28/2020, effective October 12, 2020, regulates and provides a framework for remote work. All remote work arrangements are to be formally established by a written contract and on a voluntary basis. Among other things, employers are required to compensate staff for related costs, with amounts, procedures and limits established by collective agreement.
Turkey Effective March 10, 2021, the Remote Working Regulation further elaborated existing provisions on teleworking, aimed at employees transitioning to such an arrangement. Existing contracts can be converted into remote working contracts by mutual agreement. Employees can take the initiative by a written request, which the employer must respond to within 30 days. Employers that wish to convert an employee’s contract to a remote working basis also need the employee’s consent, except if remote working is introduced in the whole or part of the workplace due to compelling reasons, as specified in the law.
Ukraine Law 4,051 entered into force on February 27, 2021, establishing the country’s first framework governing remote work (which may be occasional) and home work (where staff normally work somewhere other than on the employer’s premises). In both cases, work arrangements and conditions should be stipulated in employees’ written contracts (except when remote working is imposed for emergency reasons). The employer is responsible for providing the equipment necessary for employees to work remotely and for reimbursing related expenses (unless agreed otherwise).

Employer implications

The pandemic has accelerated the preexisting employment trend of greater remote working to expand talent pools for a given location and to encourage better work/life balance. Employers should continue to monitor developments in the markets where they operate in order to remain compliant as well as to see how new frameworks could create efficiencies and opportunities for their businesses in general.

Contacts

Valentina Rocchi

Shruti Krishnamurthy

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