WFH legislation
The new bill is an amendment to the Netherland's Flexible Working Act of 2015, which allows workers to request changes in their working hours, schedule and even place of work. Pic: iStock

Dutch are making WFH a legal right; a look at laws in other nations

While Ireland has a similar bill in the pipeline, countries like Slovakia, Colombia and Chile have passed laws on remote working options with some variations

The Netherlands is on the verge of making work-from-home a legal right for employees. Last week, the Dutch parliament’s lower house passed legislation in this regard. The European country now needs to wait for approval from the senate.

Currently, employers in the Netherlands can deny any request from workers about working from home without giving any reason. Under the new law, employers must consider all such requests and give adequate reasons for refusing them.

“It allows them (employees) to find a better work-life balance and reduce time spent on commuting,” said Senna Maatoug of the GroenLinks party, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Maatoug was one of the co-authors of the bill.

Also read: Why techies are still taking time to Zoom out of work from home

The new bill is an amendment to the Netherland’s Flexible Working Act of 2015, which allows workers to request changes in their working hours, schedule and even place of work. The nation is already well-regarded for its worker rights.

Different companies, different measures

The new legislation comes at a time when companies worldwide struggle to bring workers back to the office. While some companies have been accommodating in bringing their employees back, others like Salesforce have mostly done away with in-office working completely.

Some others, like Tesla, have coerced employees to return to the office. Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk had warned employees that they could either return to the workplace or leave the company.

For Dutch corporations, the new legislation isn’t expected to be as contentious. With 14 per cent of the workforce already working remotely two years before the pandemic, according to Eurostat, the acceptance of remote working is much higher in the lowlands.

But legislation and regulation have had to play catch-up as remote working has seen a significant uptick since COVID in 2020.

Ireland publishes draft bill

As in the case of the Netherlands, Ireland too is going the legislation way with regard to WFH. The draft Right to Request Remote Work Bill, 2021 has been published and once enacted, it will give employees a legal right to request remote working.

The Bill will, for the first time, provide a legal framework around which requesting, approving or refusing a request for remote work can be based. It would mandate that all workplaces must have a written statement which sets out the company’s remote working policy, specifying the manner in which remote working requests are managed and the conditions which will apply to remote working generally within the organisation.

Written agreement in Slovakia, Argentina

Some other countries too have passed laws concerning remote working. Angola and Argentina have passed what they call teleworking legislations, where telework must be established through a written agreement for each employee. Also, remote employees have been given the same rights as on-site employees and they have the right to disconnect after working hours.

In Slovakia too, a new legislation on remote work, amending the Slovak Labour Code, entered into effect on March 1, 2021. Under the legislation, WFH must be agreed upon between the employer and the employee in writing in an employment contract. While giving remote working staff the same rights as on-site staff, the legislation also says that ‘employees and employers may agree that employees will determine their own working hours for more flexibility’. In that case, however, the employee may lose entitlement to certain salary premiums.

Remote work laws in Chile, Colombia

The Chilean government passed a Distance Working and Teleworking law in 2020. The new law makes a distinction between distance working (when services are provided from home or a location other than the company’s establishment, work site or branch) and teleworking (when services are provided by an employee remotely using technology tools). According to the law, both distance working and teleworking require a written remote working agreement that should be registered with the Chilean department of work within 15 days of signing the agreement.

The Colombian government recently passed law No. 2121 and its implementing regulations establishing a remote work regime. The new regime applies to all workers and all employers (private and public sector) in Colombia. Under this law employers are required to respond within five days to employees’ written working from home requests. Employees may carry out their work overseas if permission is given by their employer.

Also read: Get ready for the new norm – work from home

Also, the modalities of remote work must be agreed upon by the employer and the employee and employers are required to implement an internal remote work policy compliant with the new legislation. Further, the law states, remote work should apply for the entire duration of the employment contract.

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