Telework in the Czech Republic
A new Labour Code came into effect in the Czech Republic in January 2007. The new law widened the definition of work carried out away from the employer’s premises, and this is now understood to include telework although it is not actually specified. This article looks at the extent of telework in the Czech Republic and explores the progress in implementing the EU framework agreement on telework, concluded by the European social partners in 2002.
Article 2 of the 2002 European framework agreement on telework (107Kb PDF) has defined telework as follows:
Telework is a form of organising and/or performing work, using information technology, in the context of an employment contract/relationship, where work, which could also be performed at the employers premises, is carried out away from those premises on a regular basis.
No legal definition of telework exists in the Czech Republic, unless a sentence in Paragraph 317 of the Labour Code may be considered as such:
This Code shall apply to the labour (employment) relations of an employee who does not work at the employer’s workplace, but who performs the agreed type of work under the conditions agreed in working hours that he or she organises him or herself….
However, that broadly-defined framework makes no mention of the use of information technologies by such employees. Nor has any definition of telework arisen in higher-level collective agreements (HLCAs). No information is available on the definition of telework in company-level collective agreements, but it is unlikely that such definitions exist therein.
Prevalence of telework
Number and proportion of employees involved
The Czech Statistical Office (Český statistický úřad, ČSÚ) carried out a ‘Survey of the use of information and communication technologies (ICT)’ in the first quarter of 2005; the study was based on an analogous survey in EU Member States entitled the ‘Community Household Survey on ICT usage in households and among individuals 2005’. According to the ČSÚ findings, 85,800 economically active persons availed of the opportunity to telework, 58,100 of whom were men and 27,700 were women. Teleworking was most common in the 25–34 year age group, which accounted for 28.4% of such workers; meanwhile, 26.4% of teleworkers were aged 35–44 years and 24.7% were aged 45–54 years.
The most recent data regarding the potential proportion of the national workforce engaged in telework originate from a national survey of work in the Czech Republic conducted in 2001; these statistics primarily concern working at home. According to this European-funded ‘Households, work and flexibility’ (HWF) project, in 2001 4.6% of men and 4.9% of women worked at home. The Institute for Advanced Studies (Institut für Höhere Studien, IHS) in Austria organised the research, which was carried out between 2000 and 2003.
Influence of occupation and qualification level
In general, work away from the employer’s premises, including telework, tends to be the exception in the Czech Republic. Therefore, it is difficult to acquire any reliable quantitative data, and especially data that are broken down by profession or qualification. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers study PayWell 2005, smaller companies in particular allow their employees to combine work in the office with homeworking. This type of work arrangement is more frequently available to specialists (in 15% of companies), to senior (13%) and middle (10%) management, and to employees working in sales (10%). According to the ČSÚ survey, telework was most common among employees with secondary (52.6%) and tertiary (40%) education.
Main sectors using telework
According to ČSÚ data for 2004, telework is most often used in micro-enterprises with 5–9 employees, and in the computer and related activities sector (Nomenclature générale des activités économiques dans les Communautés européennes or NACE 72); 4.9% of all employees of companies of that size and in that sector engage in telework. In terms of sectoral distribution, the next highest incidence of telework is in the post and telecommunications sector (NACE 64), at 4.6%, followed by the manufacture of coke and petroleum products, chemicals, rubber and plastics sectors (NACE 23–25), at 3.8%.
Regarding the company size and incidence of telework in these sectors, 4% of workers in small companies with 10–49 employees teleworked in the post and telecommunications sector. Meanwhile, 4.9% of workers in large companies employing 250 or more personnel teleworked in the computer and related activities sector.
Trends since 2000
No data are available regarding developments at national or sectoral level, but – particularly given the growing number of foreign investors in the Czech Republic – it is likely that the incidence of telework and thereby the number of teleworkers in the country has increased.
Telework may be said to have been incorporated in the generally binding labour legislation – more specifically, in the Labour Code (Act No. 262/2006 Coll., paragraph 317, points a, b and c), as mentioned above. The issue of telework is not governed by HLCAs and is probably not governed by company-level collective agreements either, as noted earlier.
No legal restrictions apply to telework. Nevertheless, its regulation has changed over the past 10 years. The present legislation in the new Labour Code, in force since 1 January 2007, differs from the previous legislation. The change consists primarily of a different definition of the work regime. The Labour Code that applied up to the end of 2006 included regulations for employees ‘who do not work at the employer’s workplace, but according to the conditions agreed in their employment contracts perform the agreed work for the employer at home, in working hours that they themselves organise’. For those employees, the Labour Code used the abbreviated title ‘home employees’.
Such employees could not claim for working overtime, at night or on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. By law, the government was authorised to establish further regulatory deviations for home employees if their different working conditions so required, or to stipulate that for certain important personal obstacles in their work they were entitled to compensation from the employer.
Health and safety
Concerning health and safety at work, a legal interpretation was applied for the conditions of homeworkers. For instance, it was inferred that if an employee’s work consisted of or was related to work with ICT, any injury suffered in the course of working with those technologies in the employee’s home – which was simultaneously his or her regular workplace in the sense of the law – could be regarded as a work-related injury. This was the case provided, at the time of the injury, the employee was performing work for the employer according to the employer’s instructions.
In a general workplace setting, a work-related injury can also be an injury suffered in the course of any action required for the performance of the work, or in the course of any action that is usual during work, or necessary before commencing or after finishing work, or any action that is usual during breaks for refreshment and relaxation. The only condition in this regard is that the employee spent those breaks on the employer’s premises. Equally, an injury suffered by an employee working at home during a break for refreshment and relaxation could, according to those interpretations, be considered a work-related injury. Under the previous Labour Code, an employee travelling from his or her home, which was also his or her regular workplace, to the employer’s premises was entitled to an allowance for travel or reimbursement of travel expenses.
All of those entitlements, which are now based on other provisions of the Act, have in essence been preserved in the new Labour Code, although the group of entitled persons is now formulated more broadly.
Employment and working conditions
The legislation in the Labour Code on the organisation of working hours, stoppages or interruptions to work caused by adverse weather conditions does not apply to teleworkers. Teleworkers who encounter significant personal obstacles in their work are not entitled to any wage compensation unless a regulation implementing the Labour Code stipulates otherwise, or if the employee is temporarily unable to work; in such cases, the organisation of working hours into shifts – which the employer is obliged to define for that purpose – applies. Nor are teleworkers entitled to overtime pay or leave in lieu of overtime. Moreover, regarding work on public holidays, they cannot claim leave in lieu, wage compensation or a bonus.
In all other respects, however, including protection against discrimination, health and safety regulations, collective rights, data protection and right to privacy, the legislation on employment relations for teleworkers is the same as that which applies for other employees.
Under the generally binding legislation of the Labour Code, no difference applies in the conditions for access to training. However, it could be surmised that differences may exist in practice, and in specific cases apparently to the disadvantage of teleworkers.
Views of social partners and government
A 2004 ‘Treaty on Bipartite Cooperation’ was signed by the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (Českomoravská konfederace odborových svazů, ČMKOS), the Association of Independent Trade Unions (Asociace samostatných odborů, ASO), the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (Svaz průmyslu a dopravy ČR, SP ČR), the Confederation of Employers’ and Entrepreneurs’ Associations of the Czech Republic (Konfederace zaměstnavatelských a podnikatelských svazů ČR, KZPS CR) and the Czech Confederation of Commerce and Tourism (Svaz obchodu a cestovního ruchu ČR, SOCR ČR). On the basis of this treaty, the social partners discussed incorporating the European framework agreement on telework into the draft of Act No. 262/2006 Coll. of the new Labour Code.
The outcome of that discussion was the provision of Paragraph 317 of that Act, which is not limited to homeworking, as was the case with the previous Labour Code. Paragraph 317 also facilitates other forms of work organisation for employees who work away from the employer’s premises.
Jaroslav Hála, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs