The ability to work remotely has become a hotly debated topic worldwide, with a considerable number of employees holding on to their newfound perseverance for remote work as many employers are still unsure about the return to office strategy. A few countries are already moving to make work from home a permanent legal right.
For instance, the Dutch Parliament will soon vote to make working from home a legal right. The Lower House of the Parliament passed a resolution in July and is awaiting approval from the Senate. Interestingly, work-from-home culture was popular in the Netherlands even before the pandemic. TOI reports Eurostat data, according to which 14% of Dutch people worked from home before the pandemic, which has now risen to 22%.
This new Dutch law comes as employers struggle to get employees to return to the office following the COVID-19 pandemic. The country will be among the first in the world to make remote work a legal right. Steven Van Weyenberg, the politician of the D-66 party leading the proposal, told Bloomberg, “We have the green light for this new law, thanks to the support we received from both employees and employers’ union.”
As the debate on remote work is becoming more heated across the globe, a recent McKinsey survey on 25,000 Americans reveals that if presented with the opportunity of remote or hybrid work, 87%will take it. The question now remains that with these figures in mind, have we reached a point where it will be possible to have a legally enforceable global right to work from home? Or, should the employers have the right to enforce presence at the office even if the tasks can be done remotely?
Providing Employees the Right to Work from Home
Although opposition to the work from home advantages exists, there are several good reasons why working from home should become a legal right.
Should employers continue to impose work hours? Assuming the employees meet the company obligations (Zoom meetings, Slack responses), employees must be able to work when they feel most productive, even if it’s late at night.
Radical Flexibility for Primary Caregivers
According to a Mckinsey research on Great Attrition, parents who have quit their jobs comprise the majority of workers compared to non-parents. Remote work enables parents and caregivers to carry out childcare responsibilities as it allows them to be flexible and minimize burnout.
While working from home, employees stay more connected to where they live and can focus on spending quality time with their loved ones. Unless the location affects job productivity and performance, why should the employer care or have any say in where the employee lives?
Remote work reduces expenses (fuel, car repairs, wardrobe collection, and outside meals). As no one gets compensated for extra commute time or getting stuck in traffic jams, working from home is definitely a win-win situation for employees.
Legal Challenges Related to Work from Home: What Employers Should Know
Remote work setups come with different sets of legal and compliance obligations. As companies roll out remote and hybrid work policies and more countries make work from home a legal right, employers must be aware of these complex legal considerations.
A few of the compliance issues that may arise are:
Employers may be subject to additional tax depending on the employee’s remote work location.
Employers may be sued for workplace discrimination if they do not provide equal access to remote work to all the employees.
Ergonomic compliance, health, and safety
The global remote work laws require employers to conduct workplace assessments for remote employees. Since the employers are responsible for a healthy and safe working environment for employees, they must take care of the employee’s work area, tasks and time, failing which they may be held responsible for ignoring the employees’ overall well-being.
Compensation and benefits
As an employer, it may be challenging to discover the right salaries and benefits for remote employees.
Employees who move countries while working remotely may encounter issues with the Immigration Department if they do not have a suitable remote work visa.
Having a globally distributed team means dealing with different legislations and rules, making it challenging for employers to classify their dispersed employees correctly.
It’s also worth noting that employers must designate a fixed work location for their employees, even if they work remotely. Any written employment documentation should include the employee’s place of employment. Moreover, it should be kept in mind that when employees work from home, their home is their workplace during working hours. This means the employer could be held accountable for any mishap while working from home.
How to Effortlessly Build a Remote Team Amidst Legal Frameworks?
- When hiring for work-from-home roles, employers need to be clear and transparent about the remote work model while indicating the time zone and jurisdiction in which employees must be based
- Employers must use caution when describing the remote work model they offer in written documentation (contracts, remote work policies, etc.)
- To avoid compliance issues, employers should consult with an Employer of Record (EOR) about the legal implications of the chosen term
Sustaining the Work from Home Revolution
Even though some professions are not ideal for remote work, the revolution is already here, which is why it is recognized as a legal right. Hopefully, such legislation will continue to gain traction worldwide and stay. Nevertheless, as employers have different requirements depending on their business type and sector, a proper assessment and the employment law considerations must be done.
On the other hand, employers should conduct their analysis of how the work-from-home arrangements have worked and what challenges have come up or may come up in the future in anticipation of the work-from-home law, whether it is in terms of contributing to home costs such as bills and insurance or providing equipment.
From a policy perspective, organizations may also remain consistent and remove any prerequisite related to minimum service qualification before making a remote work request. Marcel Molenaar, Country Manager at LinkedIn for the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, said, “In order to remain competitive and improve employee happiness, three-quarters of employers say they’ve updated their flexible working policies—including more options to work remotely—since the pandemic, which is testament to the popularity of working from home.” As a next step, employers must evaluate the permissibility of remote work while upholding an organizational culture that supports a remote work environment.
Looking at all of the above, we once again pose the initial question: Should work from home be a recognized legal right? Well, why not? It could be the next torch bearer in the corporate culture.