Telework in Slovakia
Telework was defined only recently in Slovakia, in the amended Labour Code which came into force on 1 September 2007. With some exceptions, the labour legislation generally provides the same rights for teleworkers as for other employees. Telework is not common in Slovakia and is limited to certain economic sectors and occupations. Employers and trade unions do not address this issue specifically, and its use is not subject to collective bargaining.
Telework is defined in the amended Labour Code (Act No. 348/2007) of Slovakia, which entered into effect on 1 September 2007. Act No. 311/2001 on the Labour Code, which was valid from 2002, included the term ‘work at home’ in Article 52 (SK0207102F). Recently, this article was renamed and extended to include ‘work at home and telework’.
The Labour Code now defines telework as:
a labour relation of an employee who performs work for the employer according to the conditions defined in the employment contract at home or at any other agreed place by using information technologies during working hours that he or she allocates.
Work at home is defined similarly, but without the use of information technology. An employee who – with the approval of the employer – performs work at home or at other than usual places of work only exceptionally or under extraordinary circumstances is not considered to be a teleworker or homeworker. The contracting parties can agree in the employment contract that the employee will perform the agreed work at home or at any other agreed place. It is up to the employer to establish the employment conditions, either in the form of a contract or a collective agreement.
Prevalence of telework
As the Labour Code explicitly defines the application of telework only since 1 September 2007, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ministerstvo práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny Slovenskej republiky, MPSVR SR) has no information so far about its use. However, the ministry is considering collecting data on the use of telework in its statistical surveys. According to available data from MPSVR SR, about 2.7% of the total number of employed people worked at home in 2003. It is assumed that telework would be used in similar occupations as work at home is; on this basis, it will concern mostly software programmers, journalists, graphic designers, web designers, architects, non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers, insurance agents and sales representatives. No data are available regarding the level of education, age and sex of teleworkers, nor according to the sector of economic activity.
The Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovakia (Štatistický úrad Slovenskej republiky, ŠÚ SR) does not provide data on the use of telework. According to a survey carried out by the research agency FOCUS in 2000, only 1% of those surveyed had used telework in Slovakia, and 2.9% had opted for using it. Moreover, research indicates that more than 3% of the adult Slovakian population would prefer to telework. However, in comparison with other EU countries, the use of telework in Slovakia is low. The information technology (IT) which enables telework is available in a limited number of households only. Employees in Slovakia are more interested in traditional forms of work than in greater flexibility. Nonetheless, changes in the labour market, the application of gender equality and increasing demand for a better work-life balance have an impact on the traditional gender distribution of duties in families. Some employers have reported problems in retaining qualified employees who also have to cope with family duties. The application of telework could help employers as well as employees to surmount these challenges.
Apart from the Labour Code, no specific legislation or regulation exists for telework. In 2002, Slovakia joined the EU voluntary framework agreement on telework (107Kb PDF) (EU0207204F, EU0611029I), which defines the use of telework in detail and in practical terms. However, MPSVR SR did not transpose the EU agreement into national labour legislation until the amendments to the Labour Code in 2007. Thus, all essential provisions of the EU framework agreement on telework – including its definition and scope, voluntary character, employment conditions, data protection, privacy, equipment, health and safety, training and collective rights issues – have now been implemented in the Labour Code. Telework has not yet been the subject of collective bargaining.
As telework has only been legislatively regulated since 1 September 2007, no amendments in this respect have been made so far. The existing legal framework provides for specific conditions for the development of telework.
Promoting more flexible forms of work
The government encourages employers to apply more flexible forms of work, including telework. However, no timetable is outlined for their implementation. The evaluation criteria in the competition ‘Family-friendly employer’, which MPSVR SR regularly holds, expect employers to create the conditions for a good work–life balance and to implement flexible forms of work, including work at home and now also telework.
Employment and working conditions
The same provisions of the Labour Code apply to teleworkers as to other employees. These pertain, for example, to working time, rest periods, length of leave, remuneration conditions, occupational safety and health, and collective bargaining. Teleworkers enjoy the same social security and anti-discrimination protection as other employees.
Nevertheless, the provisions of the Labour Code which determine the allocation of weekly working time do not apply to teleworkers. In cases of significant personal obstacles to work, such as taking care of a family member or attending a medical appointment, teleworkers are not entitled to wage compensation. The death of a family member is, however, an exception. Moreover, teleworkers are not entitled to overtime wages and bonuses for night work, working at weekends or on public holidays. The use of telework is voluntary and can be included in an employee’s job description. The employer is obliged to adopt measures preventing the isolation of teleworkers from other employees.
Teleworkers are obliged to protect the data of the employer. The employer must take suitable measures for ensuring personal data protection. The company must also respect the privacy of teleworkers and agree with them on inspections of their work stations and visits to their homes. The employer is responsible for the provision, installation and maintenance of the tools for working, such as a computer and software. The employer is also obliged to inform the employee about restrictions concerning the use of the IT and about the possible sanctions in the event of misuse. The employee must take due care of the tools provided, and must not disseminate information over the internet illegally.
Training and development
An employer who employs teleworkers must guarantee to them the same opportunities for vocational training and career development as to other employees.
Occupational safety and health
Teleworkers have the same rights and duties regarding occupational safety and health as other employees have. Act No. 124/2006 on occupational safety and health, all related governmental ordinances and decrees, and provisions of the Labour Code apply to them. While working with a visual display unit (VDU), teleworkers and employers must follow Governmental Ordinance No. 276/2006 on the minimal safety and health requirements for working with a VDU, as well as Governmental Ordinance No. 359/2006 on details concerning health protection against excessive physical and mental workload. Nonetheless, teleworkers are not entitled to bonuses for working in difficult and unhealthy working conditions; they must themselves ensure the safest and healthiest possible working conditions.
Information and consultation
Teleworkers enjoy the same rights to information and consultation as do other employees at the company. They also enjoy the right to association and participation in collective bargaining through employee representatives.
Views of social partners and government
The government and the social partners discussed the issue of telework within the package of proposed amendments to the Labour Code. The subject was included on the agenda of the tripartite Economic and Social Council (Hospodárska a sociálna rada, HSR SR). According to MPSVR SR representatives, the Labour Code is flexible enough to enable employers as well as employees to use telework effectively. In the opinion of the employer representatives, telework is still considered as an extra form of work which could make human resource management more difficult. Some employers are concerned about the loss of control over teleworkers and about a potential decrease in productivity.
In general, the trade unions do not address the use of telework or work at home. The trade union representatives at the HSR SR consider telework as a form of employment which can be effectively used only by a limited number of employees. Trade unions primarily focus on the creation of new permanent and long-term jobs. According to the unions, conditions for a more extensive use of telework have not yet been created. Nevertheless, the representatives of the employers and the trade unions did not raise any major objections against the implementation of the European telework agreement during the discussion on amendments to the Labour Code.
Miroslava Kordošová, Institute for Labour and Family Research