Telework in Slovenia

Recent amendments to the Law on Labour Relations in Slovenia have introduced a specific reference to telework. However, only about 2.2% of the employed population were teleworking in 2005. Such workers tend to have a higher educational profile. This article looks at the extent of telework in Slovenia and explores the progress in implementing the EU framework agreement on telework, concluded by the European social partners in 2002.

Definition

Article 2 of the 2002 European framework agreement on telework (107Kb PDF) has defined this form of work 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.

Telework is now statutorily defined in Slovenia. Amendments to the Law on Labour Relations (LLR) were made in November 2007, including the explicit definition of telework as a special category of homeworking (SI0706019I).

According to Article 67 of the new LLR:

homework is defined as work at home, where the homeworker is performing work at his/her home or independent of location, away from the employer’s premises on a regular basis. Homework is also defined as distance work (telework), where the homeworker is performing work by using information technology.

This classification is in accordance with the definition of telework in the 2002 framework agreement established by the European social partners.

Meanwhile, the definitions used by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (Statistični urad Republike Slovenije, SURS), dating from 2006, are as follows: ‘Telework is work performed by a worker (teleworker) at home, in the dwelling, using a personal computer, a mobile phone, a fixed phone or a fax machine’ and ‘A teleworker is a person who is employed in a company but performs at least a few hours of work each month at home, using the internet’.

Prevalence of telework

SURS data from 2005 show that some 21,000 teleworkers were recorded among the employed population – 8,000 men and 13,000 women – amounting to a total proportion of 2.2% (Table 1). Of this total, 13,000 people (4,000 men and 9,000 women) regularly engage in telework while 8,000 persons (4,000 men and 4,000 women) occasionally or sometimes do so.

Table 1: Proportion of teleworkers among persons in employment (%)
  2005
Total 2.2
Men 1.6
Women 2.9

Source: SURS, 2005

In a 2002 report on telework, based on a study sample of 1,181 persons and carried out as part of the ‘Research on the internet’ (RIS) project, the Centre for Methodology and Informatics (CMI) at the University of Ljubljana concluded that more teleworkers are present in the labour market than companies report. This 2002 study found that it is difficult to quantify teleworkers who opt for such work on their own initiative as they are often therefore doing this form of work without any formal agreement with the employer. CMI also cites research findings from a survey in companies which revealed that fewer than 10,000 teleworkers – corresponding to 2% of the employed population – work from home at least a few hours a month and are electronically connected to the company. However, household surveys identified some 60,000 teleworkers in Slovenia, representing 6% of the economically active population.

CMI found that 4.7% of the Slovenian labour force were teleworking in 2002. Based on this survey, the characteristics of teleworkers in the country are as follows:

  • the majority (91%) are internet users;
  • the majority are men (82% of occasional teleworkers and 63% of regular teleworkers) – this finding appears to be at odds with SURS data showing more women than men teleworking;
  • the majority have at least a college education;
  • a large proportion of teleworkers (44%) live in the central part of Slovenia, mostly in big towns.

Trends in extent of telework

According to CMI, among the economically active population in 2001, 3.8% of persons were home-based teleworkers, 1.2% were self-employed teleworkers, 1.8% were mobile teleworkers and 2.9% were temporary teleworkers. CMI findings indicate that 38,000 persons in Slovenia work at home at least one day a week and use information and communication technologies (ICT).

As noted, based on results of the CMI 2002 survey, 4.7% (46,000 teleworkers) of the labour force were teleworking in Slovenia (Table 2). More specifically, 3.1% (30,000 teleworkers) of the labour force regularly teleworked, while a further 1.6% (16,000 teleworkers) occasionally or sometimes engaged in teleworking.

Table 2: Proportion of teleworkers among economically active population/persons in employment (%)
  2001* 2002* 2003** 2004** 2005**
Total 5–6 4.7 5.1 2.6 2.2
Men     4.3 2.2 1.6
Women     6.0 3.1 2.9

Note: CMI measured the proportion among the economically active population, while SURS measured it among persons in employment.

Source: *CMI, 2002; **SURS, 2005

SURS data for the second quarter of 2003 identify 46,000 teleworkers among persons in employment (21,000 men and 25,000 women): 25,000 teleworkers regularly worked on this basis (10,000 men and 15,000 women) and 21,000 teleworkers occasionally or sometimes did so (11,000 men and 10,000 women). Further data from SURS for 2004 indicate that 25,000 teleworkers were present in the employed population (12,000 men and 13,000 women): 14,000 people (6,000 men and 8,000 women) worked as regular teleworkers and 11,000 persons (6,000 men and 5,000 women) did so occasionally or sometimes.

Statistics from SURS for 2004 and 2005 reveal a decline in the number of teleworkers among the employed population; only the number of female teleworkers carrying out such work on a regular basis increased by 12% over this two-year period.

Profile of teleworkers

CMI estimates that about 12% of the teleworkers in Slovenia are managers and experts in their field of economic activity. Some 15% of teleworkers are employed in public service, 24% in public companies and 37% in private companies. A total of 43% of teleworkers have a university education, compared with 17% of the active labour force in Slovenia. The proportion of those who are highly educated among occasional teleworkers is even higher (50%).

According to 2004 survey data from the Cranfield Network on Comparative Human Resource Management (Cranet) based on a sample of 161 Slovenian organisations with 200 or more employees, some 5.6% of companies had employees working at home. By economic sector, this form of work was found mostly in agriculture and industry (6.6% of companies) and in commerce (5.1% of companies). Telework is used in 11.2% of companies, mostly in the commercial sector (17.9%) and agriculture and industry (11% of companies). This survey shows that, in companies with a more highly educated workforce, work at home is carried out to a greater extent than in companies with a less educated workforce.

Barriers to telework

Data from the 2002 CMI survey on telework reveal that the nature of the work is the largest obstacle towards telework (20%), followed by lack of financial resources (8%) – particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – and lack of employees (7%).

Regulatory framework

Articles 67–71 of the new LLR define distance work (telework) as homework, or as work based on an agreement – such as an employment contract – between the employer and employee to perform work at home or on a location-independent basis.

The employer must inform the Slovenian Labour Inspectorate (Inšpektorat Republike Slovenije za delo, IRSD) about the intention to organise homework before the work actually begins. Legislation in the LLR sets out that the costs of homework should be borne in accordance with an agreement between both sides; however, the employee has a right to compensation if she or he covers the cost of the work. The precise amount should be defined within the employment contract. Stipulations of the sectoral collective agreements on distance work or homework can also be used for the regulation of telework.

The LLR, first passed in 2002 (SI0206101N), allowed more freedom in organising work at home compared with former legislation. It is no longer necessary for the employer to make a special case for homework; such work can now be organised regardless of the nature of work performed, and the working conditions and workers’ rights are matters to be addressed in the employment contract. With the amendments to the LLR in 2007, telework is now defined as a special category of homework (Article 67) and both homeworkers and teleworkers enjoy the same collective rights as company-based employees (Article 68).

Employment and working conditions

According to the new LLR, homeworkers have the same rights regarding access to training and collective rights as other workers, in accordance with the principle of equal treatment of workers. Article 68 states that all rights, obligations and conditions on homework are defined by the employment contract. The employer must ensure safe working conditions for such work (Article 69) and that the work does not endanger the homeworker or the living and working environment where the work is carried out (Article 70).

In the opinion of the Slovenian Employers’ Association (Združenje delodajalcev Slovenije, ZDS) and of trade union representatives, teleworkers have the same working rights as other workers and no special working conditions apply to them.

Views of social partners and government

According to ZDS, telework is a new form of work that is a matter of agreement between the employer and employee, while complying with the LLR in respect of work at home.

Trade union representatives, however, report that some abuses have occurred regarding homework or telework, with employees receiving an individual employment contract with a reduced level of employee rights instead of a regular employment contract.

From the perspective of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs (Ministrstvo za delo, družino in socialne zadeve, MDDSZ), the 2002 European framework agreement on telework is now implemented in Slovenian legislation as part of the LLR, but no data suggest any expected increase of telework in the near future.

Fostering employment and work–life balance

Slovenia’s Development Strategy (1.56Mb PDF) for the period 2006–2013, which was adopted by the government on 23 June 2005, states as one of the country’s five key development priorities that higher employment levels should partly be achieved by improving labour market flexibility, including the use of homework and telework. The Strategic goals of labour market development up to 2006 (2MB MS Word doc) also referred to the modernisation of work organisation by introducing more flexible forms of work such as homework. Moreover, the Development Report 2007 by the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (Urad RS za makroekonomske analize in razvoj, IMAD) highlights work at home as a flexible form of employment that also promotes the reconciliation of work and family life.

Barbara Lužar and Aleksandra Kanjuo Mrčela, University of Ljubljana

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