EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Telework in Lithuania

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The social partners in Lithuania have not signed any particular agreement on telework. Despite the probability that teleworkers are present in the country, they are not identified in official data; equally, the economic sectors most affected by the practice are unknown. This article looks at the extent of telework in Lithuania and explores the progress in implementing the EU framework agreement on telework, concluded by the European social partners in 2002.

Definition

In Lithuania, no special statutory and/or collectively agreed definition of telework exists either in concordance with or deviating from the definition of the 2002 European framework agreement on telework (107Kb PDF). According to the expert and legal representatives of the social partners, Lithuanian legislation presents a definition of homeworking that also covers telework. The legislation concerned includes the Labour Code (LC) of the Republic of Lithuania and Decree No. 1043 of 19 August 2003 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on the approval of peculiarities of individual employment contracts. The latter decree defines homework as ‘work done by an individual at home for a wage agreed on with the employer’.

Prevalence of telework

As no regulations in Lithuania single out telework as such, it is not separately accounted for in official data by the Lithuanian Statistics Department (Lietuvos Statistikos Departamentas, STD). Nonetheless, presuming that some teleworkers come under the category of homeworkers, Tables 1 and 2 outline information about individuals working at home.

Table 1: Employed population usually working at home, by sex and geographic location, 2001–2006 (in 000s and %)
This table outlines the number and proportion of the employed population usually working at home in Lithuania, by sex and geographic location between 2001 and 2006.
  All employees Men Women Geographic location
In 000s % of employed population In 000s % of employed men In 000s % of employed women In 000s % of employees in urban areas In 000s % of employees in rural areas
2001 20.3 1.5 9.9 1.5 10.4 1.5 10.9 1.2 9.5 2.3
2002 26.8 1.9 13.6 1.9 13.2 1.9 13.2 1.4 13.7 3.2
2003 31.5 2.2 15.6 2.1 16.0 2.2 17.5 1.7 14.0 3.2
2004 23.7 1.7 10.2 1.4 13.5 1.9 15.0 1.5 8.7 2.0
2005 23.5 1.6 10.5 1.4 13.1 1.8 13.3 1.3 10.2 2.4
2006 27.4 1.8 12.6 1.7 14.8 2.0 16.1 1.5 11.3 2.6

Source: STD

Table 2: Employed population sometimes working at home, by sex and geographic location, 2001–2006 (in 000s and %)
This table outlines the number and proportion of the employed population who sometimes work at home in Lithuania, by sex and geographic location between 2001 and 2006.
  All employees Men Women Geographic location
In 000s % of employed population In 000s % of employed men In 000s % of employed women In 000s % of employees in urban areas In 000s % of employees in rural areas
2001 28.4 2.1 9.9 1.5 18.5 2.7 25 2.6 3.4 0.8
2002 23.8 1.7 8.3 1.2 15.5 2.2 21.8 2.2 2 0.5
2003 22.3 1.6 7.1 1.0 15.2 2.1 20.9 2.1 1.5 0.3
2004 27.8 1.9 11.6 1.6 16.1 2.3 26.4 2.6 1.3 0.3
2005 36.5 2.5 15.3 2.0 21.3 2.9 31.9 3.1 4.6 1.1
2006 44.1 2.9 17.0 2.2 27.1 3.6 38.3 3.6 5.8 1.3

Source: STD

As the above data indicate, homeworkers account for a small proportion (about 2%) of employed individuals in Lithuania; this figure reaches about 5% when those who occasionally work at home are added. Teleworkers, in the opinion of labour market experts, could account for a minor share of all individuals working at home.

The STD data also provide a distribution of homeworkers by their sex and place of residence. No significant differences emerge between men and women usually working at home; both sexes accounted for about 2% of their employed counterparts within any given year. The data reveal that homeworkers in rural areas represented a slightly bigger proportion than urban homeworkers did, but it is not possible to comment on this observation without further research.

A relatively significant increase occurred between 2005 and 2006 in the proportion of the employed population sometimes working at home. This again warrants further analysis.

No special research has been conducted on the distribution of telework in Lithuania and therefore no specific data are currently available.

Regulatory framework

Labour market experts argue that the 2002 European voluntary framework agreement on telework is implemented in Lithuania by means of the LC (Article 108 on types of employment contracts and Article 115 on employment contracts with homeworkers) and Decree No. 1043. No collective agreement or any other agreement of the social partners in Lithuania exists on the implementation of the voluntary framework agreement: according to the social partners, there is no need for it.

The LC provides for several types of employment contracts, including an employment contract with homeworkers. According to the LC, an employment contract with homeworkers ‘may establish that an employee will perform the job functions agreed therein at home. The characteristics of employment contracts with homeworkers shall be established by the government and collective agreements’.

As mentioned above, Decree No. 1043 defines homework as ‘work done by an individual at home for a wage agreed on with the employer’. Furthermore, the decree stipulates that:

job implements used by a homeworker should be in conformity with the statutory requirements of safety and health at work. […] Working time of a homeworker may not exceed 40 hours a week. Homeworkers shall allocate their working hours at their own discretion. Homeworkers shall themselves account the working hours that may be recorded differently than is specified in a model working-time accounting sheet of the established form. Rules of operation of a company shall not apply to homeworkers. […] Homeworkers shall be subject to provisions laid down in the Labour Code and other legislation of the Republic of Lithuania together with exceptions set forth in this regulation.

No restrictions on telework apply at national level. Before the LC came into effect on 1 January 2003, no regulations existed in Lithuania with regard to homework or telework.

Employment and working conditions

It is difficult to give an evaluation on the current situation with regard to telework in Lithuania without any further specific research having been carried out. On the basis of expert opinion from the social partners – employer organisations, trade unions and the government – the employment of teleworkers and their working conditions in Lithuania may be roughly outlined.

Telework appears to be gradually increasing in Lithuania, but its coverage is not large; as explained below, the legal environment does not encourage the development of telework. However, a significant increase may be noted during the past two years in the numbers of individuals who have personal computers (PCs) and use the internet at home (Table 3).

Table 3: Households possessing PCs and having access to the internet, 2001–2007 (%)
Between 2001 and the first quarter of 2007, an increasing number of households have PCs and access to the internet.
  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007*
Households with PC 8.5 12.0 19.3 25.0 29.0 36.5 42.0
Households having access to the internet at home 3.2 4.1 6.2 10.6 14.4 31.7 40.3

Note: * first quarter.

Source: STD

According to STD data, at the beginning of 2007, households with PCs at home amounted to 42% in Lithuania, while internet users at home represented more than 40% of all households in the country. Compared with the 2004–2005 period, these figures have doubled or even tripled. Presumably, such developments may have led to an increase in the numbers of teleworkers in Lithuania; however, no data are available to prove this.

According to labour market experts, teleworkers in Lithuania may be divided into two basic groups. The first group includes individuals employed under regular employment contracts at the employer’s premises, but who in fact spend part of their work hours working at home; such work is not formally reflected in any accounts. The second group covers self-employed individuals, who usually conclude a civil contract – that is, a copyright or service agreement – with an employer instead of an employment contract. Contracts with homeworkers set forth in the LC are not popular in Lithuania due to their inconvenience. For example, in accordance with Governmental Decree No. 1043, such workers should keep books of accounting of their working time, and they are obliged to notify the employer in writing if children aged less than 18 years, pregnant women, women who have recently given birth or breastfeeding women are also residing in the home.

Presuming that both groups of teleworkers exist in Lithuania, workers in the first category enjoy the same social guarantees as those employed at the employer’s premises. They have the same access to training as workers at the employers’ premises, are protected with regard to health and safety in the same way and have the same collective rights. In the second group, the teleworkers do not have the social guarantees characteristic to hired employees unless they apply for voluntary national social insurance.

Views of social partners and government

Lithuanian trade unions expressed their opinion in relation to telework in 2002, and this opinion has not changed so far. They acknowledge that new and flexible forms of employment are expanding in Lithuania and, therefore, they adhere to the position that:

the goal of trade unions is not to prevent the development of atypical forms of employment naturally emerging in the labour market, but to define the legal status thereof and, primarily, to ensure employment-related and social guarantees of persons doing atypical work.

Trade unions fully uphold the telework agreement signed by the social partners in 2002, as well as general principles laid down therein.

Lithuanian employer organisations have not declared any official position with regard to telework. According to the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (Lietuvos pramoninkų konfederacija, LPK), the issue of telework is not relevant for its members and no need has arisen for any regulations or collective agreements in this field so far.

The Ministry of Social Security and Labour (Socialinės apsaugos ir darbo ministerija, SADM) is interested in the development of new methods of work organisation. According to the ministry, the LC and Decree No. 1043 contain all legal preconditions necessary for the development of telework in Lithuania. Moreover, currently valid legislation provides equal conditions for individuals working at home as for workers at the employer’s premises.

Inga Blažienė, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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