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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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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Argentina

  • at MBB Balado Bevilacqua
  • at MBB Balado Bevilacqua
  • at MBB Balado Bevilacqua

Regarding the role of unions to protect the entitlements and rights of telecommuting workers, the home office framework establishes privacy and other rights regarding monitoring systems; please refer to question 3.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Australia

  • at People + Culture Strategies

Some major unions in Australia have sought protections for remote workers, by promoting a “working from home charter” designed to ensure that the rights and benefits of those working from home are not less favourable than what they were before their moving to home-based work, and that working from home should not be grounds for discrimination.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Austria

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

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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Belgium

  • at Van Olmen & Wynant

Trade unions have lobbied and collectively bargained for a specific legal system for teleworking during the pandemic, to clarify the obligations and rights of teleworkers during the pandemic. They were hoping for mandatory compensation for costs by employers; ultimately, this was not included in CBA No. 149, which formed the result of the negotiations. The trade unions have also bargained for, in the context of a national interprofessional agreement, a so-called coronabonus of 500 euros for employees of any company that has reported profits in spite of the crisis.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Brazil

  • at Pinheiro Neto
  • at Pinheiro Neto Advogados

There have been no major or reported involvements of unions in challenging the remote-working models adopted by companies. As a general rule, unions in Brazil tend to get involved whenever companies change (or implement) conditions that affect employees’ compensation (eg, removal of healthcare benefits or salary reduction), schedules (eg, longer shifts or working weekends), non-compliance with collective bargaining agreements or any other aspect that could ultimately negatively affect employees. The remote-working model was incorporated into the CLT as a form to adjust the law to current needs and the market, ensuring that those working remotely were given the same working conditions, with a few exceptions (eg, time-tracking exemption), as those working at the company’s premises.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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France

  • at Proskauer Rose
  • at Proskauer Rose
  • at Proskauer Rose

In general, employees and new works council members have a right to alert and withdraw from any situation which they have reasonable grounds to believe presents a serious and imminent danger to their life or health (article L.4131-1 and L.4121-2 of the labour code).

Apart from these actions, the new works council or the unions will always have the ability to report to the employer any malfunction affecting the entitlements and rights of remote workers.

In any case, please note that employees who wish to terminate their status as a remote worker will have priority to assume resume a non-teleworking position that corresponds to their professional qualifications and skills and to inform the employer of the availability of any such position (article L.1222-10 of the labour code).

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Germany

  • at CMS Hasche Sigle

In the covid-19 pandemic, trade unions and employee associations demanded that employees be granted the right to work from home. Moreover, they required that compliance with regulations concerning remote working and occupational health and safety regulations should be monitored.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Greece

  • at Kyriakides Georgopoulos Law Firm
  • at Kyriakides Georgopoulos Law Firm
  • at Kyriakides Georgopoulos Law Firm

Following the introduction of the new law 4808/2021 regarding remote working, the role of trade unions will increase as they will seek to remain actively involved in certain processes related to remote working.

The main concerns of the General Worker’s Confederation, as recently notified to the government and  employers' organizations are:

•             the introduction of teleworking through collective-bargaining agreements;

•             the voluntary nature of teleworking and the minimum standards to be complied with;

•             the safeguarding of remote workers’ rights and their communication with employee representatives; and

•             the coverage of all costs related to working from home and all additional costs resulting from the use of employees’ homes as their offices.

We believe that there will be new collective labour agreements regulating working from home and flexible working arrangements in the future.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Hong Kong

  • at Lewis Silkin
  • at Lewis Silkin
  • at Lewis Silkin

There have not been any particular actions brought forward by trade unions or other worker associations regarding protecting the entitlements and rights of remote workers in Hong Kong.

Trade union presence in Hong Kong is not as prevalent as it is in other countries. While we have seen some trade unions engaged on issues relating to the reduction of pay and benefits and redundancies, we have not seen this with remote working.

Last updated on 11/10/2021

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India

  • at Nishith Desai
  • at Nishith Desai

Certain state governments, during the first and second waves of lockdown in India, issued orders mandating employers to pay full salaries or to provide holidays to employees who were unable to work owing to the closure of their workplaces. In Pune, the active trade union for employees in the information technology sector made complaints before the labour authorities based on such orders.

Labour authorities in Pune also took steps against employers through the issuance of notices and other adverse orders to block detrimental actions taken against employees such as retrenchment, reduction in wages, and change in leave policies. However, we have noticed a downward trend in such incidents during the second phase of lockdown in early 2021. During the second phase of lockdown, employers have also been more proactive in providing medical support and other assistance to employees and their families, as opposed to taking cost-optimisation-driven employee adverse actions, as was noted during the first phase of lockdown in India.

Last updated on 18/11/2021

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Ireland

Ireland

  • at Littler

No specific, coordinated actions have been taken other than normal day-to-day activities. The government’s Work Safely Protocol which deals with the steps that employers must take to facilitate the reopening of workplaces, provides for the appointment of a Lead Worker Representative, whose role is to work together with their employer to assist in the implementation of and monitor adherence to public health measures to prevent the spread of covid-19 in their workplace. The Lead Worker Representative does not need to be a member of a trade union or any other worker association to carry out the role.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Italy

  • at Toffoletto De Luca Tamajo

During the Covid-19 pandemic Unions were ready to make their voices heard in order to guarantee the protection of employees, especially regarding their health and safety.

With reference to smart working, the main tool for unions is the NCBA, which, in fact, is the results of negotiations between Social Parties and can include further protection for employees or an obligation to also inform and consult unions in order to introduce smart working.

©Toffoletto De Luca Tamajo, ©Ius Laboris

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Mexico

  • at Marván, González Graf y González Larrazolo
  • at Marván, González Graf y González Larrazolo
  • at Marván, González Graf y González Larrazolo

The unions have remained pro-business during the pandemic and have been flexible with the modification of working schedules, temporary stoppages, reduced terms and conditions of employment and avoidance of strikes. The pandemic regulations allowed the most important economic activities to continue during the crucial stages of the pandemic, and unions agreed to implement immediate teleworking schemes. Many of the provisions of the 2021 reform on teleworking were developed in practice by employers and union representatives during negotiations.  

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Netherlands

  • at Rutgers & Posch
  • at Rutgers & Posch

During the covid-19 pandemic, several trade unions demanded that employees be granted the right to work from home. Furthermore, trade unions also advocated that employees working from home should receive an extra allowance for additional costs associated with remote working (e.g., internet and electricity costs). On 1 January 2022, the government has granted this request; it introduced a tax-free home-working allowance of a maximum of 2 euro per (part of the) day of homeworking. Please note, this is not a mandatory allowance.

Last updated on 08/03/2022

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Poland

  • at Bird & Bird
  • at Bird & Bird

Trade unions and employee representatives may actively cooperate with employers when they introduce teleworking policies or other remote-working arrangements.

Also, notifications can be filed to the National Labour Inspectorate about any behaviour considered a violation of remote workers’ rights caused by the employer.

Last updated on 21/03/2022

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Until the pandemic, unions in Portugal were not particularly focused on remote-working and teleworking employees or their working conditions and rights.

Nevertheless, during the pandemic, unions played an important role in shaping the contours and content of the special teleworking regime, namely through pressuring the government to address or clarify some key issues, such as the payment of meal allowances and other expenses to teleworking employees, but also to report some misconduct, such as illegal monitoring of teleworking employees.

Employers did not give unions a particularly relevant role in the adoption of covid-19 measures; the simplified lay-off regime meant there was a duty to consult with trade union delegates and workers’ councils, when applicable, but not to negotiate with the unions.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Qatar

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

While the Qatar Labour Law does allow for worker’s committees to be established in certain instances, their powers are limited, and regarding employee remote-working entitlements, we are not aware of any action taken or requests made.

Last updated on 08/11/2021

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Saudi Arabia

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

Trade unions, collective associations, workers’ councils and the like are unlawful in the KSA and therefore do not exist.

Last updated on 29/11/2021

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Spain

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Article 19 of the Law on Remote Working provides that there should be no difference between remote and on-site workers regarding collective and representative rights.

Employers must provide workers’ representatives with the required elements to properly carry out their activities, including access to communications and email addresses and a digital bulletin board.

They must ensure that there are no communication hurdles between remote workers and their legal representatives and that remote workers can effectively participate in activities organised by their legal representatives, especially exercising their right to vote in the workers’ representatives on-site elections.

Apart from this, there are no differences in union rights due to employees working remotely. They are entitled to be informed or consulted, depending on the matter, before implementing decisions to check that the employer is complying with the applicable labour regulations.

In particular, employers must provide the works council with a copy of remote-work agreements and notify them of any change to such contracts.

Employers must also inform the works council and remote workers about on-site vacancies, as remote workers have priority over external candidates when vacancies arise.

The works council can challenge before the labour inspectorate or the courts any company decision that breaches labour regulations, regardless of whether it affects remote workers or not.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Sweden

  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper
  • at DLA Piper

In Sweden, the same rules and regulations regarding employment protection also apply to remote workers. Therefore, few measures have been taken by unions or worker associations in this regard. However, worker associations and unions have actively encouraged employers to allow remote working to protect workers from covid-19 and create a safer working environment.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Switzerland

  • at Lenz & Staehelin

Under pressure from unions, the Council restored protection for vulnerable individuals. These vulnerable employees now have the right to work from home. If employees are not able to carry out their work from home, employers may give them other tasks that can be carried out at home. If no tasks can be performed at home, these employees are released from their obligation to work and the employer must pay them their full salary. This protection is still in place at the time that this article was written.

In addition, the main employers' organisations in French-speaking Switzerland set up a remote-working agreement template in October 2020. This template was considered "insufficient" by the trade unions, because they were not consulted during its development. However, it is often used.

In February 2021, the Federal Personnel Association launched a petition demanding the right to work from home for people employed by the Swiss Federal Administration.

Last updated on 20/01/2022

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Turkey

  • at Gün + Partners
  • at Gün + Partners
  • at Gün + Partners

In Turkey, unions have mostly provided opinions or organised demonstrations about the recent Regulation on Remote Working. For instance, the Turkish Journalists Union published a list of recommendations concerning remote working for the attention of the Ministry and its employers. As another example, the Confederation of Turkish Worker Unions issued a comprehensive study named “Remote Working with Regard to Occupational Health and Safety Aspects”.

Notwithstanding the above, in Turkey unionisation mostly exists in blue-collar industries. Therefore, these kinds of associations mostly dealt with short-time working and unpaid-leave mechanisms during the pandemic.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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UAE

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

Trade unions, collective associations, workers’ councils and the like are unlawful in the UAE and therefore do not exist.

Last updated on 08/11/2021

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United Kingdom

  • at Littler

There has not been any coordinated, general union campaign dealing with protecting employee entitlements and remote-worker rights.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), which is an umbrella body representing 48 member unions, has published pandemic guidance for unions: see here.

Individual unions have also published commentaries on this issue from time to time.

Last updated on 13/01/2022

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United States

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

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