Thursday, February 2, 2023

Employees working from home: 6 points employers should keep in mind

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Diplomat Magazine
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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands. Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. "Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions." Dr. Mayelinne De Lara, Publisher

For many employees, their homes have become a second workplace, while some employees even work from home permanently. What do you as employer have to keep in mind when offering your employees the opportunity to work (partly) from home? We have listed 6 focus points for you.

1) Health and safety legislation

As an employer, you have to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This duty of care also applies to working from home, although this is subject to fewer rules than office work. For example, you must provide an ergonomically furnished home office for your employees. This also means that if your employees do not have appropriate supplies (such as a good office chair), you must provide these to your employees.

You must therefore check whether your employee’s home office is suitable (e.g. with a checklist) and instruct employees on how to work safely and healthily at home (e.g. with an instruction on ergonomic adjustment of their desk and on a healthy sitting posture).

2) Right to working from home?

Perhaps employees ask you to work partly or permanently from home, but you are not sure whether you want to allow this. Do you have to agree to such requests? Working from home is not (yet) a legal right. Currently, employees can request to work from home under certain conditions, but the employer only has to consider this request.

Earlier this year the Lower House approved the ”Work Where You Want” Act. If this legislative proposal is also passed by the Senate, a request to work from home may be rejected in fewer cases. In short, an employer then will have to prove that the employer’s interests outweigh those of the employee.

3) Information security

For employees working from home, the line between private and work can blur. As a result, company documents may be taken home or forwarded to private devices. Other family members may also be able to listen in on a confidential telephone conversation. It is therefore important to think carefully about and agree with your employees on how company data – in line with the GDPR – is protected.

Incidentally, the question may arise whether you are allowed to monitor your employees while working from home, e.g. through tracking software. Here, it is important to realise that because of the right to privacy, this is only allowed within limited frameworks.

4) Allowance for working from home?

When your employees work from home, they incur additional costs (such as for electricity). You can compensate for these costs by paying a home working allowance. However, providing such an allowance is not mandatory. This may be different, however, if a collective agreement is in force. In fact, some collective agreements stipulate that employees are entitled to a home working allowance. As the government wants to encourage working from home, this allowance is tax-free up to and including EUR 2 per day. This amount will be increased for 2023.

5) Home working policy

If you are going to allow structural home working, it is wise to draft a home working policy and include it in your employee handbook. This can contain clear arrangements on working from home: how often and from which location(s) may an employee work from home and what about the (un)availability of your employee? It can also include arrangements about the aforementioned topics, such as workplace furniture and security.

6) Employee participation

Finally, keep in mind that the works council also plays a role in the context of working from home. For instance, the works council has a right to consent when introducing or changing a home working policy. A home working policy may also be subject to the right to give advice in some respects, e.g. if it results in a significant investment for the benefit of the company.

About the author:

Jan Dop

Jan Dop is Head of Russell Advocaten’s Embassy Desk, that serves Embassies, Consulates, diplomats and expats. He has been a lawyer at Russell since 1995, and became a partner in 2011.

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