A draft amendment to the Labour Code is heading to the chamber of deputies. The bill has undergone significant changes since last autumn when it was first published. From an employers’ perspective, the changes to the rules for working from home are very favourable.
Changes to privileged employee groups
One of the most discussed areas was the right to work from home of employees caring for children under 15 or other dependent persons, and of pregnant employees. While the amendment still favours these employees, they are no longer entitled to work from home. Under the current wording of the amendment, they have the right to apply for remote work, and employers not granting their request must provide the reasons for their refusal in writing. Another significant change is the lowering of the age limit for children – only employees with children under 9 years of age will fall within the category of parents.
Agreement remains mandatory
Under the draft amendment, it will still be necessary to conclude a written agreement on remote work with each employee who works from home (even on a one-off basis). Compared to the original draft, however, the extensive list of mandatory essentials that such agreement must contain has been omitted. We still recommend that the agreement at least set down how the employee and the employer will communicate, how work will be assigned and checked, how costs will be reimbursed, and how the employer will be able to assure the employee’s occupational health and safety by the employer, including checks and the possibility for the employer to enter the place of work in order to clarify the cause and circumstances of on-the-job accidents. The OHS area will certainly require special attention: the draft amendment does not lay down any special OHS regulations for remote work, meaning that the employer's obligations and responsibilities will be the same as they are for employees working at the employer’s premises, while the employer logically will not have the same opportunity to influence the place of work or check it on a regular basis.
Significant changes to reimbursement of employees’ costs
From the very beginning, the reimbursement of employees’ costs has been the most controversial point of the amendment. Since its initial proposal which stipulated an employers' obligation to pay employees an ‘energy compensation lump sum’ of CZK 2.80 for each commenced hour of work, the amendment has moved forward significantly. As of today, the proposal provides for three options for the reimbursement of costs for employees working from home:
- reimbursement of actually incurred costs;
- provision of a lump sum for increased energy costs in the amount stipulated by a decree of the Ministry of Labour; and
- agreement that the employee is not entitled to any or only a partial reimbursement of costs.
We see this change as very positive – the government has understood the requirements of the practice, as many employees and employers perceive work from home as a benefit that in itself saves the employees’ time and costs.
We welcome the above shift in the proposed wording. After the first draft had been published, we warned that the proposed wording would mean a significant administrative and financial burden for employers, which could ultimately lead to limiting remote work. From our point of view, the changes are positive. The question remains what the final wording of the amendment will be once the legislative process is completed and the bill enters into effect.