Telework in Luxembourg
Although the social partners signed a collective agreement regulating telework in 2006, a major problem remains with its application in relation to a large group of workers in Luxembourg aeuro" namely, cross-border workers. The latter represent more than 40% of workers in Luxembourg. At present, only a small proportion of workers are engaged in telework.
Telework is defined as the organisation and/or production of work under an employment contract which involves the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), to enable work which could have been carried out at the employeraeuroTMs premises to be regularly conducted away from those premises, particularly at the employeeaeuroTMs home.
Three determining criteria must be met for teleworking, namely that the work:
- is carried out using information technology (IT);
- takes place in a location other than the employeraeuroTMs premises;
- is carried out regularly and habitually.
On 21 February 2006, the following social partners signed a collective agreement regulating telework: the Union of Luxembourg Enterprises (Union des entreprises luxembourgeoises, UEL), the Luxembourg Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (OnofhA¤ngege Gewerschaftsbond LA«tzebuerg, OGB-L) and the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (LA«tzebuerger ChrA«schtleche Gewerkschafts-Bond, LCGB). This agreement was made generally applicable through the Grand-Ducal Regulation of 13 October 2006. It applies to employees covered by the law of 24 May 1989 on employment contracts, excluding those with public law or equivalent status.
The agreement stipulates that telework must be voluntary. The teleworkeraeuroTMs contract must stipulate all of the specific details associated with their situation and, in particular, the location from which the worker will engage in telework. Teleworkers must not be discriminated against due to their status, for example in relation to remuneration or access to promotion and training. Worker representatives must be informed and consulted about the introduction of telework and any modifications that are made to its use.
As a general rule, the employer should provide, install and maintain the equipment needed for telework, in addition to the necessary technical support. The teleworker must be informed of the companyaeuroTMs policy on occupational health and safety, and is required to apply the rules properly, particularly in relation to the proper use of visual display units.
Moreover, the employer must take measures to ensure the protection of the data used and processed by the teleworker for professional purposes.
The agreement sets out the arrangements for the transition to telework and back to a traditional employment contract. It also defines the practical aspects of telework. The transition requires an amendment to the employment contract and thus may not be imposed unilaterally. The employer and employee have an adjustment period aeuro" of between three and 12 months aeuro" during which they are entitled to return to the traditional working formula. During the first 15 days, the employer or employee can revoke their decision unilaterally, by either one giving written notification delivered by hand or registered post.
If an employee exercises the right to revert to the traditional way of work during the adjustment period, this may not be used by the employer as grounds for dismissal. When the adjustment period is over, a return to the traditional contract is only possible on the basis of an agreement between the two parties, with the new employment conditions being set out in the contract.
Problem of cross-border workers
While the social partners welcomed the introduction of this regulatory framework, a major problem remains with its application aeuro" namely, in relation to cross-border workers, who make up a large proportion of workers in Luxembourg.
EU law stipulates that employees who engage in telework should be registered with the social security system in their country of residence, even if the company that employs them is located in Luxembourg. Hence, if a cross-border worker works part of the time at their employeraeuroTMs premises and partly from home aeuro" for example, in neighbouring France or Belgium aeuro" they must, under EU regulations, be registered in their country of residence for all of the work performed. In other words, both employeeaeuroTMs and employeraeuroTMs social security contributions will be calculated and paid according to the rules of the workeraeuroTMs country of residence. This means that the workeraeuroTMs net salary will decrease and the cost to the employer will increase, since Luxembourg still has the lowest social security contributions compared with neighbouring countries.
A similar problem arises with tax. To avoid any risk of double taxation, the cross-border teleworker may be simply obliged to pay tax in their country of residence on the portion of salary relating to time spent working from home. As Luxembourg has lower tax rates on salaries than neighbouring countries, the impact on the employeeaeuroTMs net income will once again be substantial.
These issues, which are often justifiably regarded as a barrier to telework, are not yet at the point of being resolved: the social partners who signed the agreement have referred the matter to the government. As a result, this form of work is likely to be far less attractive for cross-border workers, who represent over 40% of workers employed in Luxembourg.
Main findings on telework
The following data on telework are mainly drawn from the latest findings published by the TNS ILRES market research company (formerly ILReS Market Research) from October 2001.
Awareness of telework
Almost 70% of people interviewed had heard of telework. A particularly high level of knowledge of this form of working was observed among residents of Luxembourg (74%) and the Netherlands (83%). Higher than average awareness was displayed among those in the 25aeuro"60 age group, senior executives and white-collar workers, as well as among groups with high levels of education and income.
Prevalence of telework
A small proportion of the population aeuro" just 4% aeuro" engages in telework. This percentage is even lower among women (2%), although given the need to reconcile working and family life, the opposite might have been expected. People in the 35aeuro"49 age group appeared to be the most receptive to the idea of working remotely (9%).
Characteristics of teleworker
Typically, teleworkers working in Luxembourg are most likely to be foreigners aeuro" in 10% of cases of Belgian extraction aeuro" with a higher education, self-employed or white-collar employees, and earning a relatively high monthly income.
The majority of people (54%) who engage in telework are self-employed. Some 38% of teleworkers interviewed had the opportunity to engage in telework as part of their contract with their employer; however, it should be noted that this survey was carried out before the regulatory framework was introduced in Luxembourg in 2006.
Some 7% of regular internet users engage in distance work. This makes sense, since the profile of internet users is similar to that of teleworkers, and such workers are obviously familiar with IT equipment.
Reasons for lack of interest in telework
Of those interviewed, 37% said they aeuro~had no wish to engage in teleworkaeuroTM; obviously, the circumstances in which the interviews were held made it difficult to gather comprehensive information about the characteristics and advantages of telework aeuro" something which needs to be addressed. Various reasons were given by workers for this view, including the following: aeuro~It isnaeuroTMt compatible with my line of workaeuroTM (14%) or aeuro~my boss doesnaeuroTMt like the ideaaeuroTM (7%).
Future prospects for telework
Some 52% of those interviewed held the view, at the time of the survey, that they would not engage in distance working in the future. Moreover, 24% of those interviewed did not answer this question. Only 6% of respondents thought it aeuro~very likelyaeuroTM that they would one day work in this way; this figure rose to 24% taking into account those who considered such a scenario to be aeuro~fairly likelyaeuroTM.
Respondents in the 19aeuro"24 age group held the most positive outlook in relation to telework, with 19% of them expressing a wish to engage in telework in the future. Americans and those from other European countries were highly receptive to the idea of telework, with between 50% and 60% saying that it was aeuro~very likelyaeuroTM or aeuro~fairly likelyaeuroTM that they would engage in this form of work. Some 8% of men were receptive to the idea of telework, compared with only 4% of women.
There was little variation in the responses on the basis of educational level or type of work. In relation to internet users, the research findings (in French) reveal that some 36% of regular internet users thought it aeuro~very likelyaeuroTM or aeuro~fairly likelyaeuroTM that they would engage in telework in the future.
Further results (in French, 3.8Mb PDF) show that companies are more inclined to offer such forms of working, as 12% of them stated that teleworking was used in the firm. The main companies concerned are those operating in the computing sector, one third of which resort to teleworking. However, this form of work organisation remains limited in companies, as it only involves a small number of employees aeuro" less than four people per company in most cases.
In relation to workers who aeuro~sometimesaeuroTM engage in telework, the research reveals that people located in northern Luxembourg record a higher incidence of telework, with 43% of workers who sometimes telework coming from the northern part of the country. This could be attributed to their tendency to engage in occasional work, in order to avoid travelling or to reduce significant commuting time. The main activities that people engage in while teleworking are: connecting to the internet from home mainly to do research (89%), access their email (53%), or access their companyaeuroTMs IT system (21%).
Odette Wlodarski, Prevent