Telework still largely regulated at company level in Europe

Access to telework and working arrangements when working from home are still largely determined at company level in most EU Member States, with just France, Lithuania and Portugal currently enshrining the right to request telework in legislation. While some common ground exists, there are varying standards and practices in place with regards to telework in the EU, which can be regulated through legislation or collective agreements. This can relate to important issues such as health and safety, working time, and compensation. Although the right to disconnect has recently been expanded in several countries, it is not extensive throughout the EU and differs in implementation across Member States.

Eurofound’s new publication on Telework in the EU highlights the main cross-country differences and similarities regarding telework legislation and recent changes to these regulations. It also examines the current situation regarding collective bargaining on telework. The analysis highlights many of the drawbacks and challenges of telework, focusing on provisions relating to access to telework, flexible working time, continuous availability/connectivity, occupational and health risk prevention, and the employer’s compensation to the costs incurred by the employee while working remotely.

The research notes that telework is becoming an established way of working across the EU post-pandemic. Employers and companies need to support hybrid workplaces and this new way of working, while adapting to the many challenges in the business environment. If teleworkers across the EU are to be protected equally, shared standards will also be necessary. Social dialogue and collective agreements will be essential to both keep companies’ productivity and to protect workers at company level.

Six countries (Austria, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain) adopted new legislation on telework since the beginning of the pandemic, while amendments or updates have taken place in others on specific aspects of telework. Legislative initiatives are under discussion in Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg. In particular, the number of countries that have included the right to disconnect in national legislation has doubled since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Despite gradual legislative progress, working conditions have not been adapted to reflect the new reality of teleworking as regulation struggles to keep up with the pace of change. This will be further complicated by the growing potential for employees to be able to work remotely for a company not located in their country of residence.

Speaking on the publishing of the report, Eurofound Executive Director Ivailo Kalfin said

'The shift to remote work will continue in the coming years because of further technological and societal changes. Developments need to be closely monitored by policymakers and social partners, as telework represents a growing proportion of working arrangements in Europe and can greatly influence issues such as working-time organisation, gender equality and well-being in general.'

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