New Ways of Working

Explore and keep track of key legal and compliance considerations for multinational employers as new ways of working become increasingly embedded as the pandemic begins to recede. Learn more about the response taken in specific countries or build your own report to compare approaches taken around the world.

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01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

01. Has the government introduced any laws and/or issued guidelines around remote-working arrangements? If so, what categories of worker do the laws and/or guidelines apply to – do they extend to “gig” workers and other independent contractors?

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Austria

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First, it should be noted that in the Austrian legal system a distinction must be made between remote working and working in a home office. While remote working regularly includes any work without a fixed workplace (eg, also in cafés and public premises) the work in a home office is limited to an employee's place of residence or at least that of one's partner. Only working in a home office is substantially regulated by law, while remote working can still be agreed largely without formalities and is "only" subject to general labour law norms.

The most important government measure in this sector is the Home Office Act, which came into force on 1 April 2021 in response to the covid-19 crisis and the corresponding working conditions. The Home Office Act adapts various existing laws and tightens the legal framework for home office employment. The relevant provisions include a legal definition of a home office, its direct tax implications, and fundamental legal requirements for working in a home office, such as the requirement of a written agreement between employer and employee. Therefore, a home office can neither be imposed unilaterally nor is there a legal entitlement at a statutory level for any worker to work from home.

The relevant legal provisions on home offices cover all genuine employment relationships that are based on a private law contract. Those are essentially characterised by the personal and economic dependence of the worker. It can be deduced from this definition that independent contractors are not covered by those provisions. They are essentially free to determine working hours and places and only owe their contractual partner the production of a result. Therefore, they can regularly decide independently where they choose to work.

From an Austrian point of view, "gig workers" are also ordinary employment relationships under social security law, which is why the above also applies to them.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Yes, many states have passed laws that recognise remote-working arrangements. This includes laws concerning employee reimbursement of costs relating to remote work, workers’ compensation, tax, timekeeping and meal breaks, data privacy, and providing accommodation.  Because companies may be legally considered to be employers or “co-employers” of consultants and contractors, these rules may also apply to non-employees.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

02. Outline the key data protection risks associated with remote working in your jurisdiction.

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Austria

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The potential data protection risks associated with remote working are largely equivalent to those associated with working in a regular workplace, but are arguably even more prevalent.

A significant potential risk factor is the transfer of personal data if it is no longer securely stored on a company's servers. In addition, employers thereby transfer responsibility for the safekeeping and use of sensitive data to the worker. In doing so, employers have a significantly reduced ability to exert any influence. Nevertheless, companies are still generally regarded as being responsible for data protection within the meaning of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which creates a certain amount of friction.

It is also questionable whether a so-called privacy impact assessment must be carried out when working in a home office.

In principle, such an assessment must be conducted if data processing – especially when using new technologies – is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons due to the nature, scope, circumstances, and purposes of the processing.

At present, it cannot be assumed that the threshold for the use of new technologies has already been exceeded in the context of remote working. In individual cases, however, it could amount to an "organisational solution" within the meaning of the GDPR, which also triggers the obligation of a privacy impact assessment by the data controller.

Insecure data connections that might not be constantly checked and maintained should also be considered. Another potential risk arises from it being easier for third parties to obtain access to sensitive data, whether it be persons in the same household or others at public places of work.

From a legal perspective, compliance with data security can also be adequately ensured for remote work, considering the GDPR and the corresponding national legal basis (Austrian Data Protection Act).

In home-office agreements, however, it is advisable to make further reference to data protection aspects. Here, companies should refer to the secure and data protection-compliant transport of sensitive hardware. Additionally, companies should take technical and organisational measures to ensure data security (eg, use of VPN, two-factor authentication with mobile phones, encryption of USB sticks, provision of a LAN network, requirements for secure storage of access data).

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Data privacy rules vary from state to state. Remote work, in particular, raises issues where employers have less control over the working environment and employees are potentially accessing sensitive information in their home that they share with others.  Employers should ensure that employees working remotely can demonstrate that their location provides sufficient privacy, security, and safety to secure the confidentiality of the employee’s work, company information and materials.  Additionally, health-related data must be protected and employers should be required to protect trade secrets and other confidential data. Employers must also maintain reasonable security measures to protect sensitive personally identifying information. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

03. What are the limits on employer monitoring of worker activity in the context of a remote-working arrangement and what other factors should employers bear in mind when monitoring worker activity remotely?

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Austria

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Relevant here are first the restrictions on the employer's control of working time. Both the Working Time Act and the Rest Periods Act also apply to remote work and to work in a home office. However, section 26 paragraph 3 of the Working Time Act provides that in the case of work that is predominantly carried out in the home, only records of the duration (not the specific beginning and end) of the working time are to be kept. If the working hours are fixed, only deviations must be recorded.

The practical possibilities of monitoring work performance are manifold due to the IT tools that are now available (eg, log files, webcam). In contrast, in Austrian labour law, the employer's ability to control is subject to important restrictions. Control measures that affect human dignity require either the consent of the works council or – if such a council does not exist – the consent of the respective worker. Both attendance and performance or productivity controls can be relevant here. According to case law, the question of whether human dignity is affected must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. In addition to the employer's interest in monitoring, the way the monitoring is carried out is also decisive, so that the possibility of constant electronic monitoring (for example, by controlling keystrokes or screen duplication) certainly affects human dignity[1].

However, it is of course lawful to check the availability of employees during working hours.


[1] Huger in Huger (Hrsg), Home Office und mobiles Arbeiten [2021] Rechtliche Rahmenbedingungen.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Monitoring and surveillance laws vary from state to state, and there are also, potentially, tort and criminal laws regarding invasion of privacy that must be considered where the employee has an expectation of privacy.  While audio or key-stroke monitoring may be minimally intrusive, video surveillance is almost always problematic. Some states require only one-party consent for audio monitoring, but others require that all the parties to a conversation consent to such monitoring.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

04. Are employers required to provide work equipment (for example, computers and other digital devices) or to pay for or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working (for example, internet and electricity costs)?

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Austria

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The basic obligation of employers to reimburse employees for expenses incurred on behalf of employers already results from general private law for all forms of remote working (more precisely: section 1014 of the General Civil Code).

However, the reimbursement of costs is more precisely defined for work in a home office. Employers are, in principle, obliged by law to provide home workers with the necessary digital work equipment. If an arrangement has been made by works agreement or individual agreement whereby the employee provides digital work equipment, which includes the necessary data connection, the employer shall pay the reasonable and necessary reimbursement of costs. To this extent, the employer is obliged by law to pay compensation.

This expense is to be borne by the employer, who may, however, pay a so-called home office allowance tax-free to the employee up to a limit of €300 and thereby, or by paying an appropriate lower amount, compensate the employee for expenses, including those resulting from increased internet or electricity consumption.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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There is a patchwork of various state laws, either by judicial decision or statute, affecting expense reimbursement, particularly in instances involving mandatory remote work as opposed to remote work requested by the employee. Ascertaining expense reimbursement obligations is one of the most challenging aspects of implementing a compliant teleworking arrangement. Some states do not require reimbursement of work equipment, internet, etc, while others, such as California, do require reimbursement of “all necessary expenditures.”

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

05. What potential issues and risks arise for employers in the context of cross-border remote-working arrangements?

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Austria

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Labour Law:

The essential issue regarding labour law is the question of which labour law should apply. Often, employers will want to apply a uniform labour law to all employees. However, this becomes impossible if in cross-border remote-working arrangements the labour law of the state of residence provides certain overriding mandatory rules and minimum standards (eg, in wage dumping and working time). Additionally, it may prove difficult for employers to keep track of the ever-changing legal landscape in various jurisdictions. Allowing for cross-border remote-working arrangements will oftentimes lead either to higher staffing requirements in the in-house legal department or increased recourse to local external partners. Both are associated with costs. There is also the question of work permits, depending on the applicable local law. 

Social Security Law:
 

While temporary covid-related work at home in other EU or EEA countries (and Switzerland) should not lead to any change in social security responsibilities, the corresponding provision in Austria was limited until 31 December 2021 and restricted to pandemic-related work at home. According to the information provided by the Austrian social insurance institution, covid-related work at home should not have any social insurance and tax law implications. Apart from an exceptional situation such as this, for workers who are working in more than one member state, working or earning more than 25% of the working time or remuneration in the country of residence leads to a change of the applicable social security regulations there. This is naturally associated with (sometimes) considerable administrative effort. The corresponding declarations must be made, and the payment of contributions must be ensured.

From the employer’s point of view, especially regarding accident insurance protection, it is important to note that the exact location of the remote workplace must be specified individually.

While insurance coverage in the home office is expressly clarified, the details concerning remote work in general are still controversial. These uncertainties are exacerbated in cross-border situations.

Tax Law:

If remote work is carried out across borders, this can have (potentially negative) effects on taxation. First, it must be considered that a domestic employer may employ workers who carry out their work both domestically and, for example, in a home office abroad. This may result in the establishment of a foreign permanent establishment through that home office. This would lead to a limited tax liability for the domestic employer abroad. A limited tax liability may also be accompanied by the obligation to deduct income tax via PAYE (pay as you earn). Since national legislation must be considered, this can lead to a considerable administrative effort.

In general, employees should not stay abroad for more than 183 days per year as otherwise they will be taxed in the country in which they are active. Finally, it must be considered whether there are taxation agreements between the countries and how these are structured.

Last updated on 31/01/2022

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United States

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Employees who cross state borders trigger a host of risks for their employer. The obligations of the jurisdiction where the work is performed will generally prevail (depending upon duration).  For example, state law, and even municipal law, control employers’ leave obligations (such as time off to vote, paid family leave, or paid sick leave).  With paid sick leave, this can become very complicated, as each law has different tracking, recordkeeping and accrual requirements. In addition, state withholdings and income tax, as well as insurance (workers compensation), must be considered.  Local ordinances often also control wage-and-hour issues such as how and when an employee must be paid, pay-statement requirements, whether an exemption applies or overtime must be paid, and other nuanced areas such as required employer policies, or notices relating to wages or unemployment insurance.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

06. Do employers have any scope to reduce the salaries and/or benefits of employees who work remotely?

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Austria

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Employers cannot unilaterally reduce employees' salaries because of remote work. A salary reduction is only possible either by mutual agreement or through a dismissal, with the option of re-employment on altered conditions.

Regarding benefits, we believe that a distinction must be made according to whether they were granted with working on office premises in mind and whether the employer has reserved a right to revoke them. In the latter case, employers may reduce or revoke benefits unilaterally. In addition, it can also be argued that, for example, meal vouchers for the company canteen are no longer issued and are not reimbursed. Such and other “social benefits by the company” can be limited to use at the company’s workplace.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Most jurisdictions in the US have at-will employment, so that with appropriate advance notice, salaries and benefits of at-will employees can be reduced without issue (ie, assuming no contract and the pay does not fall below the threshold for minimum wage or to maintain any particular exemption).  However, as with any workplace policy, the law mandates that selection for wage reduction be without regard to protected status such as race, age or disability. Thus, there may be an exposure to risk of claims to the extent that those who work remotely are seeking an accommodation or there is a potential for disparate impact.  Thus, employers should ensure that there is no "disparate impact" on any protected status that is required to work remotely.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

08. Can employers require or mandate that their workers receive a covid-19 vaccination? If so, what options does an employer have in the event an employee refuses to receive a covid-19 vaccination?

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Austria

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Vaccination is not compulsory at present (but see below and question 10). Employers will not be able to force workers to have a covid-19 vaccination, as long as no corresponding legal basis has been established. However, the legal situation of workers who refuse vaccination has not yet been fully clarified.

Employers might struggle to comply with their duty of care if workers remain unvaccinated. Co-workers, but also customers, would be exposed to a greater risk of infection if workers are unwilling to get vaccinated. Moreover, the set-up of additional protective measures might lead to a considerable increase in costs the employer is unwilling to bear.

Therefore, the employer has two options:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A transfer of the worker to another workplace with a reduced risk of infection (no contact with customers or co-workers) should be considered first. If the employment contract does not provide for a transfer of workers and the worker refuses to change his or her workplace, the employer could give notice of dismissal with the option of reemployment on altered conditions. Here, for example, a change in working conditions or a change in the place of work would constitute an adequate rearrangement.

However, a dismissal or a dismissal with the option of reemployment on altered terms may not be conditional on vaccination. Yet, if there is no such opportunity for employment, the worker might be legally dismissed as he or she has nowhere to work. The question here too is if the worker can provide other evidence to meet the requirement of a reduced incidence of infection. Besides vaccination, a negative test result or a confirmation of a Covid-19 recovery will serve this purpose.

On 19 November 2021, the government announced that Austria will be the first European country to introduce compulsory vaccination against covid for all people from February 2022. The draft law is in the legislative process. After the National Assembly (one part of the legislative body) gave its approval, the draft will now also be voted on in the Federal Council (the second body). Exceptions to the general obligation to vaccinate will only be possible for medical reasons. For example, religious reasons are not considered according to the draft law. Furthermore, compliance with the vaccination order is "only" ensured by imposing administrative fines for non-compliance.

By creating a corresponding legal basis for a general obligation to vaccinate, it is expected that the employer will be allowed to take action against employees who refuse vaccination. It is conceivable, for example, that the employment relationship could be terminated because the employee cannot be employed due to lack of vaccination and is therefore not ready for work. Nevertheless, the current draft does not bring any legal changes to the workplace for the time being. Here, the 3-G rule continues to apply.

Last updated on 31/01/2022

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United States

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Federal anti-discrimination laws don't prohibit employers from requiring all employees who physically enter the workplace to be vaccinated for covid-19, accommodations must be made for those with religious objections or a disability.  Another option is to consider having employees show vaccination proof or submit to weekly covid-19 testing, wear masks, and keep physically distant from other workers and visitors.  Employers can also encourage and incentivise employees to get vaccinated by offering prizes, developing vaccination education campaigns, offering vaccinations on-site, covering any costs that might be associated with getting the vaccine, or providing paid time off for employees to get the vaccine and recover from any potential side effects. However, state lawmakers have introduced dozens of legislative proposals to make it harder for employers to require that employees get a covid-19 vaccine.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

09. What are the risks to an employer making entry to the workplace conditional on an individual worker having received a covid-19 vaccination?

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Austria

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In exercising his domiciliary rights, it is up to the employer or entrepreneur to decide which persons he allows to access company premises. Therefore, the employer must also be allowed to demand appropriate proof of vaccination. This action is also justified if vaccination reduces the risk of infection with covid-19 for other workers.

However, a separate question to ask is whether an unvaccinated employee is entitled to remuneration during a lockout. This assessment is to be made on a case-by-case basis. Since there is no legal basis for compulsory vaccination at present, a balance of interests must be made here. Many aspects play a role when balancing the interests of the employer and individual workers. For example, if there is a home-office agreement with a white-collar worker, the employer may link the return to work to changed conditions and therefore to proof of a covid-19 vaccination. In the case of blue-collar workers (or white-collar workers without a home-office agreement), however, a lockout with retention of salary will not be justifiable. The legislature currently provides three options to prove that there is no infection. A negative test result, proof of vaccination and a confirmation of a covid-19 recovery (3-G proof) are suitable ways of providing evidence here. Employers are not entitled to unilaterally impose stricter conditions without objective justification and will need to accept all three options. Furthermore, one must also consider the individual situation of the worker. Some workers are simply unable to have vaccinations for health reasons. Therefore, if employers opened their business only to vaccinated workers, they might also have to pay workers who have been locked out, without receiving any work performance.

This could change with the introduction of compulsory vaccination. First, the general vaccination obligation will drastically shift a possible balance of interests. Once compulsory vaccination comes into force, continued payment of wages for unvaccinated employees no longer seems necessary in most cases. However, there will be exceptions, especially for persons who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. In addition, workers will continue to be able to invoke the 3-G rule for the time being – until a corresponding change is made. If this regulation is not adapted, it will continue to be possible to rely on the alternatives to vaccination (testing, recovery).

Last updated on 31/01/2022

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United States

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While federal anti-discrimination laws don't prohibit employers from requiring all employees who physically enter the workplace to be vaccinated for covid-19, accommodations must be made for those with religious objections or a disability through alternative measures. Those can include getting tested weekly or working remotely.  In addition, state law is rapidly evolving in this area and we have seen a steady increase in worker lawsuits that are filed on the basis that treating unvaccinated people differently is discriminatory or unlawful. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

10. Are there some workplaces or specific industries or sectors in which the government has required that employers make access to the workplace conditional on individuals having received a Covid-19 vaccination?

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Austria

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In principle, there is already the legal possibility to impose vaccinations for certain professions in the health sector. However, this option has not been exercised yet. There is no legal basis for compulsory vaccination in most sectors.

Workers may choose from three options (3-G rule) when they want to enter their employer’s premises. As of now, there is no regulation stipulating an entry requirement to the workplace for vaccinated workers. However, employers may only tighten access restrictions in substantiated cases. Individuals who are not employees may be subject to stricter conditions (proof of vaccination) as a result of the employer’s right of domicile.

Last updated on 31/01/2022

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United States

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Yes, this includes the healthcare industry, as well as some federal and municipal agencies.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

11. What are the key privacy considerations employers face in relation to ascertaining and processing employee medical and vaccination information?

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Austria

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It is the opinion of the data protection authority that a targeted question about an employee’s vaccination status is not covered by the legal framework, as two other equivalent methods are currently provided to prove a low epidemiological risk at the workplace (3-G rule).

In practice, however, it will be possible for employers to leave it up to employees to disclose their vaccination status of their own accord.

Employers are currently only allowed to randomly check whether workers have been vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or have been tested. The underlying regulation does not create a legal basis for maintaining data and prohibits the unilateral retention of personal data. Best practice has been to leave it up to employees to actively disclose their status to employers.

There are no specific record-keeping requirements. Due to the law, personal data may not be maintained and employees must actively disclose their status and consent to its retention. Personal data may only be stored for as long as it is necessary. Furthermore, the processing of personal data must always be limited to the necessary extent (data minimisation). The general obligations of the GDPR must also be complied with.

Last updated on 31/01/2022

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United States

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With limited exceptions, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to keep confidential any medical information they learn about any applicant or employee. Medical information includes not only a diagnosis or treatment, but also the fact that an individual has requested or is receiving a reasonable accommodation. In addition, employers must maintain reasonable security measures to protect sensitive personally identifying information.  Specific data privacy rules vary state by state.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

12. What are the key health and safety considerations for employers in respect of remote workers?

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Austria

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Any regulations concerning the general protection of workers apply to teleworkers as well. Only workplace-related regulations do not apply here. Thus, an employer's duty of care does not end at the worker’s front door when the worker performs their work from home. In Austria, several large companies produce videos for their workers showing the ideal design of a teleworking workplace. They use these videos to support their workers to set up their teleworking workplace properly. In some cases, workers are even offered the opportunity to film their workplace and send the video to the employer. Experts then assess whether the workplace meets occupational health and safety requirements.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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The OSHA governs the relationship between employers and employees with respect to workplace health and safety, and provides employer mandates regarding possible hazards in the traditional workplace. The key issues in work from home safety revolves around ergonomics. But the law recognises that employers have limited direction and control over the employee’s residence or other remote locations such as coffee shops, public libraries and so forth.  Nevertheless, employers have in many instances required employees to commit to keeping a safe workplace in their home and wherever they may work.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

13. How has the pandemic impacted employers’ obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety beyond the physical workplace?

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Austria

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Employers' duty of care requires supervision of employees in terms of occupational health and safety and work ergonomics, even during teleworking. This was hardly dealt with before covid.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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With covid-19, the focus has shifted from workplace injury to workplace illness. Thus, the obligations have been expanded in that employers have had to think about exposures both inside and outside the workplace, and establishing safety protocols to help prevent employees from bringing the hazard into the workplace. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

14. Do employer health and safety obligations differ between mobile workers and workers based primarily at home?

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Austria

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No. Regarding employers’ obligations on health and safety measures, the same rules apply to mobile workers and workers based primarily at home.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Yes.  Employees who as part of their job travel, visit customers and clients, and go from place to place, may be exposed to health and safety conditions that are beyond their employer’s control.  Nevertheless, employers need to take reasonable steps to keep their employees safe, even when they are outside the brick-and-mortar workplace.  The employer’s obligations to ensure their workers’ safety follows them as they travel for work, and, to the extent feasible, employers need to anticipate and mitigate against potential risks. On the other hand, employees who work from home are less likely to be exposed to these kinds of hazards, and the employer’s responsibility for the safety of employees who work from home is far less than for mobile workers or, of course, on-site workers. 

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

15. To what extent are employers responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely?

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Austria

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An employer's duty of care also includes looking after the mental health and well-being of employees who work from home. However, their duties are of course limited only to those aspects that arise from the work performance itself (hence no private factors). However, neither employers nor representatives of the labour inspectorate may enter a worker’s home. Therefore, employers are unable to examine working conditions during teleworking. Nevertheless, employers are still expected to ask their workers about their state of health and offer support. As mentioned above, some employers offer their employees creative solutions. However, the prerequisite is always that employees voluntarily cooperate with the measures if his or her home is affected.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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This is not an area that has been a priority in the United States, particularly if the employees are remote. However, this will likely be a developing area in the future that employers will have to consider in light of the changes being brought about by the pandemic.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

17. To what extent have employers been able to make changes to their organisations during the pandemic, including by making redundancies and/or reducing wages and employee benefits?

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Austria

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Regarding changes in the organisational structure itself, large employers, in particular, are relying heavily on home offices and are already planning for a time after the pandemic. Desk-sharing models are increasing0 being considered and actively implemented. This is accompanied by a (partial) return of leased property. In the internal organisation, there is a noticeable departure from rigid hierarchies and a shift towards increased network thinking, in which decision-making processes take place jointly using digital work equipment.

The government and legislature have been very careful to minimise layoffs as much as possible and at least to counteract pandemic-related redundancies. This was achieved, on the one hand, through direct support of the economy in the form of aid packages (compensation for loss of sales, subsidies for monthly fixed costs, etc) and, on the other hand, through the widespread use of short-time work, which was largely financed through state aid. The short-time work subsidy is accompanied by a retention obligation placed on employers, so that there have been relatively few redundancies during the pandemic so far, as the companies have accepted this aid well.

 
Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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The pandemic has caused many companies to have to re-evaluate employee salaries and wages, and to make staffing changes. Where required by collective-bargaining agreements, these changes have resulted in bargaining with unions.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

18. What actions, if any, have unions or other worker associations taken to protect the entitlements and rights of remote workers?

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Austria

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Austria benefits from its system of "social partnership", which is characterised by cooperation between employers' and employees' interest groups and with the government. Due to long negotiations between the social partners in the run-up to the Home Office Act, workers’ rights were safeguarded before the amendment was implemented.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Unions are criticising company responses (especially the lack of paid leave, sufficient staffing, and a process to address employee safety concerns) in recent organising efforts. The best thing non-union employers can do to avoid union drives of this nature is to be transparent. Employers should develop and communicate a covid-19 response that is compliant with state or federal mandates and “best practice” recommendations, be as flexible as is reasonably possible in balancing the interests of employees and the business, and regularly update employees.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

19. Are employers required to consult with, or otherwise involve, the relevant union when introducing a remote-working arrangement? If so, how much influence does the union and/or works council have to alter the working arrangement (for example, to ensure workers’ health and safety is protected during any period of remote work)?

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Austria

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Especially regarding home office work, the Austrian legislature has clarified that such work requires an agreement between employer and employee.  At the same time, however, the legal possibility was established to determine framework conditions under which home working can take place within a company through a works agreement. At this level, employee representatives (the works council) can therefore help to shape the implementation of remote working. However, the conclusion of such a works agreement is voluntary and cannot be enforced. Nevertheless, employers should inform the works council before introducing home working, as the works council has a general right to information, which in our opinion also includes the introduction of remote working.

In addition, various collective agreements for entire industries also lay down framework conditions for teleworking, although their implementation also requires an agreement between employer and employee.

Employee protection in the context of mobile working is already guaranteed by the fact that relevant worker protection laws also apply to remote work in their essential provisions. In practice, works agreements regularly provide for employers to undertake a workplace evaluation to ensure the health and safety of its employees.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

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Unionised employers may unilaterally implement a policy requiring employees to work from home if the applicable collective bargaining agreement contains language granting the employer the right to implement such a requirement. Unilateral action also would be permissible if a local, state or federal law mandates working remotely for certain classifications for employees. Even in that case, however, the employer would still have an obligation to bargain over any discretionary aspects of the policy, such as:

  • classes of employees subject to remote work (unless specified by the order);
  • frequency and timing;
  • consequences of an employee’s refusal; and
  • where the remote work will be performed.

Other provisions in a collective bargaining agreement may cede control over the situation to the employer. For example, the CBA may include a “management-rights provision” which permits the employer to operate and manage the workplace, require standards of performance, implement improved operational methods and procedures, or promulgate rules, regulations and personnel policies.  Even if the clause does not explicitly address the issue of working from home, it may be argued that the union has waived its right to bargain over the matter. 

Employers with union-represented employees need to carefully review existing collective-bargaining agreements to determine whether there is sufficient management rights language that would permit an employer to mandate working from home as a condition of employment.

Furthermore, to the extent an employer seeks to avoid a bargaining obligation by claiming that working from home is consistent with a local, state, or federal law or regulation, it will need to show that it is actually mandated by the law to require this.

Up-to-date information on the USA’s response to the pandemic, including State-level news and developments, can be found at Littler’s covid hub here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021