A hot topic recently is the proposed changes in labour law relating to remote work. In fact, so far “remote work” has not been generally regulated in Polish law. After the outbreak of the pandemic, remote work was regulated separately in the special COVID-19 Act. According to this act, to combat COVID-19, the employer may instruct an employee to perform remote work.
More and more companies are now cancelling their work-from-home instructions introduced with the lockdown. At the same time, many companies are already adopting permanent changes in their working models. They usually choose a hybrid model, combining work in the office and at home. This is also favoured by employees. Nearly eight in ten employees in Poland indicate hybrid work as their ideal choice. Various splits between work in the office and work at home are implemented. It all depends on the employer’s current needs and its corporate culture.
A new bill regarding remote work was published in May 2021. It addresses the rules for “remote work,” which would replace the regulations for what is now called “telework.” The aim is for the new legislation to come into force when the extraordinary provisions on remote work cease.
From the employer’s point of view, the important thing is that the employer has a right to request employees to work remotely, even if this option was not provided for in their employment contract. However, this only applies in exceptional cases.
Pursuant to the bill, before the employer assigns remote work, the employee will have to declare that they have the necessary premises for working remotely. Furthermore, the employer must attempt to reach agreement with the trade union on the terms and conditions of remote work. If there is no trade union at the workplace, then the employer should reach agreement with the employees’ representatives. The employer will also have additional obligations: to provide essential materials and tools for remote work and to cover the costs directly associated with the performance of remote work, such as electricity or internet access. The employer will also have to ensure proper data protection. On the other hand, the employee will be responsible for a safe and healthy workplace.
Moreover, a long-awaited solution will finally be implemented: an option to use working tools owned by the employee. However, this should be specified in the employment contract.
It is also important that the employer and employee will be able to exchange letters, information, applications and statements electronically.
The proposed changes to the Labour Code are better suited to contemporary realities and technologies. They will replace the outdated provisions on teleworking and introduce new, long-awaited solutions. This should give investors an additional incentive to use Polish workers to a greater extent. There is no denying that, new problems may arise. For instance, what if an employee falls down the stairs while working from home? Is that an on-the-job accident or not?
We will closely follow the progress of work on the amendment and continue to report on practical aspects of this new approach to remote working in Poland.
Szymon Kubiak, attorney-at-law, Employment practice, Wardyński & Partners
The content of this article is a part of Episode 5 of the programme News from Poland – Business & Law. You can watch the episode here >>>