Telework in Greece
Telework is not well developed in Greece. Although data is lacking on the prevalence of telework, some findings estimate that as few as 1.1% of companies use such a practice. Although the social partners maintain a generally positive view of telework, trade unions have concerns about the nature of telework agreements, while employers are concerned about the growth of telework. As a result, it is argued that a more specific regulatory framework is needed.
Greek legislation does not provide any definition of telework. The National General Collective Agreement (Εθνική Γενική Συλλογική Σύμβαση Εργασίας, EGSSE) for 2006–2007 (GR0605019I) adopted the exact definition given in the 2002 framework agreement on telework between the EU-level social partners, which defines 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.
Prevalence of telework
It is difficult to precisely determine the number of people who are working in the telework sector in Greece, due to inadequate statistical monitoring.
A 2002 survey by the Institute of Labour (Ινστιτούτο Εργασίας, ΙΝΕ) of the Greek General Confederation of Labour (Γενική Συνομοσπονδία Εργατών Ελλάδας, GSEE) and the Confederation of Public Servants (Ανώτατη Διοίκηση Ενώσεων Δημοσίων Υπαλλήλων, ADEDY) showed the prevalence of telework to be particularly limited, with just 1.1% of the companies surveyed using such practices. The incidence of telework appears to be relatively higher in the industrial sector, as well as in large companies with more than one establishment and in enterprises that are members of business groups. Wherever teleworking practices are recorded, a differentiation emerges regarding the nature of employment: half of the enterprises associate telework with employee status and a similar percentage refer to a situation involving the contracting out of services and self-employment.
A 2003 study by the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection (Υπουργείο Απασχόλησης και Κοινωνικής Προστασίας, YPAKP) reports that the actual number of people engaged in telework in Greece is probably unknown. Nonetheless, certain unofficial statistics estimate the number of teleworkers to be in the region of 50,000 people – or 1.14% of the country’s total workforce of 4.4 million people. This new form of employment mainly draws interest from: large enterprises or multinationals whose parent companies abroad have begun to adopt practices and models for organising telework; and self-employed people whose occupations require familiarity with and use of new information and communication technologies (ICT) including computers and the internet – such as authors, journalists, translators, accountants, programmers and architects.
The EGSSE for 2006–2007 incorporated in the statutory framework for Greek labour relations the European framework agreement on telework of 16 July 2002. Thus, the framework agreement has the regulatory power of an EGSSE and covers all workers in each sector of the economy. Nonetheless, the agreement has not been applied specifically and many of the issues at national level have remained unresolved.
Article 3 of the framework agreement stipulates that the decision to switch to telework is reversible. In essence, at this point it is up to both sides – either at individual or collective level – to define the terms and conditions under which a teleworker could return to their previous employment status in the company. The EGSSE does not make the provision more specific, as other countries such as France or Poland have done.
Article 3, as it was incorporated in the EGSSE, states that:
The employer shall duly provide the teleworker with written information in accordance with Presidential Decree 156/1994 [on the employer’s obligation to inform the employee of the terms governing the agreement or employment relationship] … The particularities of telework require supplementary written information on matters such as the part of the enterprise on which the teleworker is dependent…etc.
The EGSSE text itself uses the term ‘etc’; thus, no detailed listing was made of the issues to be included in the notification in the case of telework – as stipulated in the Presidential Decree.
With regard to Article 4, the Greek text merely translates the provision of the agreement stipulating that the particularities of telework may require special supplementary collective or individual agreements. This mere translation is not adequate. The particularities should be investigated and defined in a collective agreement, given the difficulty that an employee has in bargaining at the level of an individual employment contract.
In the last article of the agreement, ‘the introduction of telework’ is established as a reason for information and opinions to be provided by the trade union organisations described in Law 1264/1982 and the works councils described in Law 1767/1988. It is open to investigation whether an employer’s decision to introduce telework will necessarily be subject either to bargaining with the company-level trade union or to agreement and consultation with the works council. The clause of the agreement, as recorded in the appendix of the EGSSE, merely makes reference to ‘delivering an opinion’. This term is obviously weaker than bargaining and a question automatically arises as to whether an issue will emerge regarding normal bargaining with the company-level union, in which case the issue could be referred for mediation and arbitration.
Employment and working conditions
Based on current legislation, employers, employees, trade unions and health and safety officers must ensure that the directives and laws are observed, both with regard to the broader statutory employment framework and in relation to employment in the case of telework. Ministerial Decision 80025/2004 provides that management of working conditions be distributed among different departments, each of which is competent in a specific area. The Department of Risk Prevention for Special Groups of Workers and Enhancement of the Working Environment is responsible, among other things, for designing measures and requirements to address risks relating to monotonous and repetitive work, the introduction of new technologies – such as visual display screens – or new work methods – such as telework. In addition, the principle of non-discrimination is adopted, along with respect for privacy, data protection and in general the other provisions of the 2002 framework agreement, which, as already mentioned, were incorporated word for word in the text of the 2006–2007 EGSSE. However, for the adoption of the agreement to be effective, the regulatory framework must be made more specific, either by law or through a new collective labour agreement.
Views of social partners and government
The government mainly highlights the opportunities that telework provides for the integration in the workplace of vulnerable social groups – such as people with special needs – and special population groups – such as people living in island areas.
Trade unions and employer organisations maintain a generally positive outlook in relation to telework. However, the unions have raised questions over the nature of the telework agreement, since in practice cases have emerged where contracting agreements replace the traditional labour agreement and where individual employment contracts replace the collective regulation of teleworking relationships. Meanwhile, employer organisations are mainly concerned about the implications that the growth of telework has in relation to issues such as: the practical control of workers; the risk of leaking confidential business data; possible burdens on companies due to the misuse of electronic equipment; and problems relating to vocational training opportunities for teleworkers.
Thus, both the trade unions and employer organisations agree that a more specific regulatory framework should be introduced.
Sofia Lampousaki, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour/Confederation of Public Servants (INE GSEE/ADEDY)