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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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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Argentina

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

Employers must provide employees with equipment, working tools and the necessary support for performing their duties, as well as meet all the installation, maintenance and repair costs related to the use of an employee’s own equipment.

If employees incur higher expenses related to the connectivity required to perform their duties, those expenses must be reimbursed by employers.

The provision of equipment is not considered a part of compensation and, therefore, they must not be included in calculations for any severance payments, or union or social security contributions. The guidelines for determining these costs may be agreed upon by the parties if the labour relationship is not under a CBA.

In addition, according to Resolution No. 1522/2012 issued by the Labor Risks Superintendent (SRT), employers must provide the following to home workers: one ergonomic chair; one portable fire extinguisher; one first aid kit; one mouse pad and one Manual of Good Health Practices in the home office (however, this Resolution does not apply if the home-working arrangement is implemented due to the covid-19 health emergency).

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Australia

  • at People + Culture Strategies

There are no laws requiring employers to pay or reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working such as increased electricity costs and internet costs, although some employers may have a contractual obligation to reimburse employees for these costs.

An “expenses” clause is common in Australian employment contracts and provides that an employer will reimburse an employee for any genuine expense they incur in the proper performance of their duties (and for which they can produce receipts). Depending on how such clauses are drafted, employees may have a contractual right to reimbursement of internet and electricity costs as legitimate work-related expenses in the context of remote-working arrangements.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Austria

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

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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Belgium

  • at Van Olmen & Wynant

Article 7 CBA No. 149 states that employers need to arrange with employees on the provision of work equipment and reimbursement of costs related to remote work (use of a private computer, internet, electricity and gas etc). However, this provision does not include an obligation for employers to provide equipment or to reimburse these costs; it is also possible that there is no such compensation. Nonetheless, reimbursement of these costs is an attractive compensation tool for employers, as they are excluded from income tax or social security contributions (up to a certain limit).

Only a limited group of employees who fall under the homeworking system are entitled by law (article 119.6 Employment Contract Act) to remuneration of 10% of their salary to reimburse costs related to homework.

If an employee cannot work remotely because their employer refuses to provide a laptop (which an employee might not have), it could become impossible for that employee to work, which could be considered a breach of contractual and legal obligations by their employer.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Brazil

  • at Pinheiro Neto
  • at Pinheiro Neto Advogados

Employers are not required to provide work equipment in a remote-working arrangement. The CLT simply establishes that the contract governing that arrangement should be specific as to the provision of any equipment or reimbursement of expenses – if any. Notwithstanding the scant case law addressing this, precedents are inclined to understanding that companies should provide the minimum work tools needed for the rendering of services, eg, a computer and reimburse costs for the internet and power. If the company demands excessive accommodations or adaptations at employees’ homes, notably when those imply costs, employees may challenge the company’s policies and demand reimbursement – and labour courts would likely hold the employer liable for supporting the costs with excessive requests.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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France

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

French law has no provision for this.

It is, therefore, necessary to refer to the two national agreements of 2005 and 2020. These agreements stipulate that the costs incurred by the employee in the performance of his or her employment contract are borne by the employer. This obligation also applies to teleworkers. However, the national agreement of 2020 sets a few conditions for this coverage: the prior validation of the employer, the expense must be incurred for the needs of the professional activity of the employee and in the interests of the company.

The organisation responsible for collecting social security contributions (URSSAF) has issued a list of expenses that must be covered by the employer. These costs include ink cartridges, paper, telephone and internet subscriptions, electricity, heating, a proportion of rent in certain cases (see below) and home insurance.

The terms and conditions for covering business expenses (maximum amount, the procedure to follow, etc.) may be defined unilaterally by the employer, by mutual agreement between the employee and the employer, or by a collective agreement between the employer and the company's unions. Article 3.1.5 of the national agreement of 2020 and the Ministry of Labour recommend doing everything possible to reach an agreement between the employer and the unions.

If teleworking becomes permanent and the employee no longer has an office on the company's premises, the employer must pay a home occupation allowance.[3]

As for the use of the employee's personal equipment, the principle is that the employer must provide the employee with a computer for teleworking. However, if the employee agrees, they can use their personal equipment (article 7 of the national agreement of 19 July 2005).


[3] Cass. Soc, 14 septembre 2016, n°14-21.893

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Germany

  • at CMS Hasche Sigle

Employers are usually required to provide the necessary work equipment when remote working is agreed upon. The obligation to provide work equipment includes office furniture (such as office chairs and desks), IT equipment (hardware and software), office materials (such as stationery and toner) and the necessary telecommunications (like a telephone or internet connection). However, employers are exempt from this obligation if an employee voluntarily chooses to work on a mobile basis despite the business providing company premises.

If the employer and the employee agree that the employee will work at home, the employer usually pays for electricity, heating and internet. However, one-off agreements are usually made in these instances. In addition, the worker is generally provided with a laptop and additional equipment to ensure data security. Office equipment is usually only provided if the employee works exclusively from home (ie, no workstation is provided on company premises). Employers do this not only to save costs, but also to avoid having to check – which is controversial – whether the work station where the employee is working remotely complies with the general principles of health and safety.

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

Employers are obliged to compensate the cost of remote working and provide technical support (ie, IT supports services, etc) to remote workers. In particular, employers must cover all costs associated with remote working, including:

•       the cost of equipment required for remote working (laptop, mouse, keyboard, printer if needed etc). Alternatively, it may be stipulated in the remote-working agreement that the employee will use their own equipment;

•       the cost of telecommunications (ie, use of internet connection, phone, etc);

•       the cost of maintaining such equipment;

•       the cost of restoring any damage caused to it (ie, either compensate the cost of fixing equipment used or replace the same. The employer’s obligation to cover such cost also remains in case the parties have agreed that employees will use their own equipment;  

•       The monthly cost of the employee using their home as a workplace.

 Please note here that the minimum amounts of the abovementioned costs to be compensated by the employer are expected to be regulated by a relevant Ministerial Decision, which has not been issued yet.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Hong Kong

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

Employers in Hong Kong are not statutorily required to provide work equipment for employees working remotely or reimburse them for costs incurred in buying such equipment themselves or for the cost of working from home (eg, mobile phone, internet, utility costs and computer usage expenses).

Generally speaking, an employment contract will contain a term stating that all legitimate business expenses reasonably incurred in the proper performance of the employee’s job duties will be reimbursed by the employer to the employee. As such, an employee could potentially make a contractual claim against his or her employer for expenses incurred in buying work equipment for remote working and for the other costs of working from home, unless there is a policy or written instruction from the employer stating otherwise.

If the employer does not reimburse the employee for these costs, the employee may argue that the employer is in breach of contract, or that the costs incurred if not reimbursed would be an offset against earned wages, and therefore result in an unlawful deduction from wages. This, in turn, could lead to the employee bringing a potential claim for constructive dismissal or unreasonable variation of employment terms.

Therefore, it would be helpful for employers to have a clear policy on reimbursement of expenses related to remote working either as a standalone policy or as part of a wider remote-working policy, including what employees can and cannot claim, whether there are any caps on expenditure, how to make such claims and what types of documentary proof of expenditure are required.  

Last updated on 11/10/2021

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India

  • at Nishith Desai
  • at Nishith Desai

There is no legal obligation for employers to provide work equipment or reimburse the costs of remote working. However, if an employer would like an employee to work remotely, it is generally expected that the employee will be provided with the necessary tools and equipment required for remote working, including a computer and a phone, which an employee is expected to use exclusively while dealing with work-related data. There is, however, no clarity surrounding reimbursement of costs for internet or electricity, and employers adopt different arrangements, based on their remote-working policies and practices.

Last updated on 18/11/2021

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Ireland

Ireland

  • at Littler

Unless provided for in an employment contract, there is no mandatory obligation on an employer to provide particular work equipment (save as part of its ongoing health and safety obligations), to pay a working-from-home allowance or to reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working.

The Irish tax authorities permit an employer to pay an allowance of up to €3.20 per working day tax-free to employees who are working from home to cover expenses such as heat, electricity and broadband. Any amount paid over and above this permitted limit of €3.20 is fully taxable as income. Where no allowance is paid, an employee may recover up to 30% of the cost of their broadband, and up to 10% of their electricity and heating costs, directly from Revenue, the Irish taxation agency. It has been announced that up to 30% of electricity and heating costs may be recovered from 2022 onwards. However, only costs that are attributable to working days are recoverable.

Equipment that is provided by an employer to enable an employee to carry out his or her work (eg, laptop or monitor), and which is used by the employee primarily for work purposes, is not taxable as a benefit-in-kind. Vouched expenses that are incurred wholly and exclusively in the course of an employee’s duties are not generally subject to tax, but this exemption is applied on an extremely limited basis.

Last updated on 18/11/2021

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Italy

  • at Toffoletto De Luca Tamajo

Under Smart Working rules employers are not required to provide any tools for employees, nor pay or reimburse any relevant costs for the same.

However, they must ensure health & safety and that any work tools assigned to the employees are functioning well.  It is recommended that employers have an internal policy regulating the use and custody of electronic equipment and how it can be safeguarded from damage and theft. However, in case of Teleworking (see point 1) the employer is required to pay all the expenses related to the installation and the use of remote working station and tools (desk, chair, wireless connection, telephone, etc.).

©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

Yes, employers must provide, install, and maintain the necessary supplies and equipment (for example, computers, ergonomic chairs, and printers); pay any expenses arising from teleworking, such as internet, communication and electricity services; keep a registry of the supplies delivered to the teleworkers in compliance with workplace health and safety provisions; and establish the necessary training and advisory mechanisms to guarantee the adoption and adequate use of information technology.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Netherlands

  • at Rutgers & Posch
  • at Rutgers & Posch

Employers are required to provide their employees with the relevant work equipment to perform their duties. This also concerns employees who work remotely. In addition, there is an obligation for employers to make sure employees can perform their duties in a safe and responsible way and employers will need to cover the costs associated therewith.

On 1 January 2022, the government introduced a tax-free home-working allowance of a maximum of 2 euro per (part of the) day of homeworking, to compensate the employee for costs associated with remote working (e.g., internet and electricity costs). However, this is not a mandatory allowance. Based on the Work-Related Expenses Scheme, there could be more tax-free reimbursements in place in regarding the costs associated with providing work equipment, but whether this is permitted should be checked on a case-by-case basis.

Last updated on 08/03/2022

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Poland

  • at Bird & Bird
  • at Bird & Bird

There is a general legal obligation for employers to provide remote-working equipment, insure it, and acquaint the employee with how to use it, unless it is agreed individually that the employee may use their private equipment, for which they must be compensated.

The employer has to cover the costs of installing, servicing, operating and maintaining the equipment. Also, the employer must provide employees with technical support and any training they need to operate the equipment.

There is a general legal obligation for employers to reimburse expenses related to remote-working arrangements (including utilities, internet and phone). However, the absence of precise legal guidelines or enforcement mechanisms in this area has resulted in various market practices.

The new remote-working regulations that are expected to come into force in the future are likely to introduce more detailed regulations in terms of compensating the costs incurred by employees when working remotely.  

Last updated on 21/03/2022

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Portugal

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Yes, under the new teleworking law employers are responsible for providing employees with the equipment and systems required for the performance of their work and employee-employer interaction. The teleworking agreement must indicate whether such equipment is directly provided by the employer or acquired by the employee with the employer’s approval regarding its characteristics and prices.

Furthermore, employers may define the usage conditions of the equipment in the teleworking agreement or the company's internal regulations; if the employer does not, it is assumed that there are no limits to the use of such equipment.

As mentioned above, under the general provisions on teleworking, employers should pay any extra costs related to teleworking. As specified by the new teleworking law, employers will fully reimburse all additional expenses that the employee incurs as a direct consequence of acquiring or using the equipment and computer or telematics systems necessary for the performance of the work, which includes any additional energy and internet costs, as well as the maintenance costs of the equipment and systems. Such reimbursement is considered, for tax purposes, a cost for employers and does not constitute income for employees.

Last updated on 07/03/2022

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Qatar

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

Refer to question 1.

Last updated on 08/11/2021

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Saudi Arabia

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

Please see question 1.

Last updated on 29/11/2021

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Spain

  • at Cuatrecasas
  • at Cuatrecasas

Under article 11 of the Law on Remote Working, employers must provide remote workers with the necessary means, tools and maintenance to provide their services remotely. Employers must also offer remote workers with support services, if technical problems arise. The means and tools employers provide workers with should be listed in the remote-work agreement.

If parties agree on an employee using his or her private means for labour purposes, the employer should compensate that worker.

Employers should also compensate or reimburse remote workers for expenses associated with remote working, such as internet, electricity, water or gas bills. These expenses and how to reimburse them should be listed on the contract. Collective bargaining agreements may determine the expenses and the amounts to compensate.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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Sweden

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

There is no legal obligation per se to provide work equipment; however, employers are responsible for the overall work environment, irrespective of whether the work is performed at the office or remotely from the employee’s home. This means that the employer must assess the employee’s homeworking environment to identify any health and safety risks. This also includes a responsibility for the psychosocial environment. If such an assessment was to show that, for example, the lighting or the seating arrangements for an employee would pose a risk for ill-health, the employer would be required to take measures to prevent this risk. Such measures could include offering employees work equipment such as a lamp or office chair. However, the need should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

When it comes to computers and other tools necessary to perform the work, it is common for employers to provide this to employees.

In terms of reimbursing costs such as internet when working from home, there are no legal requirements and it is therefore subject to agreement with the employee. However, it is not uncommon that the employer pays part of the internet fee for employees that are permanently home-based, but it is not required.

Last updated on 24/01/2022

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Switzerland

  • at Lenz & Staehelin

The SCO distinguishes between work equipment or materials and work expenses.

Work equipment and materials, such as phones or laptops, must be provided by employers when they are necessary to carry out the work. However, contracting parties can decide among themselves that employees will provide the work equipment or materials. In such a case, employees are entitled to an appropriate allowance, unless otherwise agreed upon. Work expenses, such as electricity, rent, a telephone or internet plan, generally must be borne by the employer, provided they are necessary to carry out the work. It is not possible to derogate from this rule to the detriment of employees, and employers cannot pass some or all of the costs to employees.

There are several possibilities when it comes to passing costs along to remote workers; employers can provide work equipment and materials or employees can use their own private devices. Instruments and materials that are used for both private and professional purposes are not deemed necessary, since it is considered that employees would have acquired these instruments or materials in any case, even if they are used professionally. This reasoning also applies to private furniture, at least when the exercise of the professional activity does not require the purchase of additional furniture.

Regarding expenses, (eg, rent for private office space or extra rooms), a distinction should be made between three cases: (i) forced remote working for the employee and the employer due to external circumstances (eg, covid-19); (ii) remote working imposed by the employer on the employee (eg, because there are no offices available for the employee); and (iii) remote working agreed upon between the employer and the employee for reasons of personal convenience.

In the first case, which usually occurs when there are extraordinary and unforeseeable circumstances, such as the covid-19 pandemic, the employer must reimburse the employee for expenses incurred to carry out work from home (eg, extra costs for business telephone calls). However, the employer does not have to pay employees’ fixed costs such as rent, internet or a private telephone package.

In the second case, expenses incurred to carry out work from home and which the employee usually does not incur must be borne by the employer. This opinion was followed by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which ruled in 2019 that an employer had to pay a portion of an employee's rent because it did not provide the employee with a workspace. This solution also should apply to remote working carried out at the request of the employer.

In the third case (when working from home is the employee's choice), the employer has the right to waive, in writing, compensation for expenses related to remote working, as the remote working costs result from the employee's choice and are not imposed by circumstances or by the employer.

In conclusion, the question of equipment and materials, as well as the question of expenses, depends on the will of the contracting parties and on the situation in which remote working is carried out. Therefore, a case-by-case examination is necessary to determine who bears remote-working expenses.

During the mandatory remote-working period decreed by the Swiss Federal Council from 18 January to 26 June 2021, employees were not entitled to any reimbursement of expenses, since mandatory remote working was a temporary injunction from the authorities. However, as the decree did not contain any provisions covering work equipment and materials, the general provisions of the SCO applied.

Last updated on 30/09/2021

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Turkey

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

As per article 7 of the Regulation on Remote Working, it is essential that the materials and working tools required for the remote employee’s work are provided by the employer, unless otherwise agreed in writing.

In practice, many global companies adopt policies to make further payments to employees to reimburse office supplies, internet, etc. Therefore, it may be favourable to reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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UAE

  • at Clyde & Co
  • at Clyde & Co

Other than a requirement to provide a safe and appropriate work environment, there is no specific legislation addressing this point; however, the guidelines attached to Ministerial Resolution No. 281/2020 provide some guidelines for remote working in the private sector (refer to question 1). 

Last updated on 15/03/2022

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United Kingdom

  • at Littler

Unless provided for in an employment contract, in general there is no mandatory obligation on an employer to provide particular work equipment (save as part of its ongoing health and safety obligations, or in the context of making an adjustment for an employee with a disability), to pay a working-from-home allowance or to reimburse employees for costs associated with remote working.

Employees who have no choice but to work from home (including because of the pandemic) can claim tax relief on some utility expenses: see here for more guidance from HMRC (the UK’s tax authority). Similarly, an employee may be able to claim some tax relief for smaller items of equipment acquired by the employee for home working: see here.

Employees using work-supplied office equipment solely for work purposes (ie, not equipment owned by the employee, such as a work laptop) do not normally incur any tax liability in respect of the equipment: see here. There may be a charge if the employee is given or acquires the property from the employer: see here.

Last updated on 21/09/2021

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United States

  • at Littler
  • at Littler
  • at Littler

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