Telework is a form of organising and/or performing work using information technology, in the context of an employment contract, where the work, which could also be performed at the employer’s premises, is carried out away from those premises, on a regular basis. A teleworker is a person who performs telework. The characteristic feature of telework is the use of computers and telecommunications to change the accepted location of work. It is estimated that approximately 4.5 million employees are currently employed in telework in the European Union and this is forecast to rise to more than 17 million employees by 2010.
Following negotiations over several months, the EU social partners concluded a framework agreement on the regulation of telework on 23 May 2002, which was formally signed on 16 July 2002. The agreement states that the signatory parties view telework as a way for employers (both in the private and public sectors) to modernise work organisation, and a means for workers to improve their work-life balance and achieve greater autonomy in the workplace. The agreement regulates areas such as employment conditions for teleworkers, health and safety, training and collective rights.
The agreement established a general framework at EU level, and was the first such framework agreement implemented by the social partners and Member States by their own means ‘in accordance with the national procedures and practices specific to management and labour’. On 28 June 2006, the Social Dialogue Committee adopted a report by the social partners on the implementation of the European Framework Agreement. The report shows that the adoption of a large number of initiatives has resulted in the agreement being implemented in virtually every country of the EU and EFTA. In general, implementation has been either through collective agreements or other bilateral social partners’ agreements or by legislation or other types of tripartite activities. A few Member States, however, have chosen to implement the agreement via national legislation: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta and Portugal.