Remote work, such as telecommuting or telework (teletrabajo), is not regulated under Venezuelan law. In fact, the first time Venezuelans learned about telecommuting was in March 2020 through a Presidential Decree issued due to the covid-19 pandemic; President Nicolas Maduro ordered a mandatory lockdown suspending all employment relationships, except for specific activities and those that could be delivered remotely from home. Therefore, telecommuting has been contractually regulated by the parties in Venezuela based on general labour law provisions.
The “home-working regime” under Venezuelan Organic Labor Law partially regulates work rendered from home, but in a very vague way indicating that services can be rendered from home by a person, with or without the help of family members, with no direct supervision from the employer. This regime establishes imprecise provisions on reimbursement of the worker’s related costs, such as utilities, maintenance of equipment, and conditions of health and safety at home.
By contrast, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Panama, and Argentina have their own specific laws on telecommuting or teleworking. Most of such laws were amended or issued due to the pandemic. Such laws regulate the right to digital disconnection, working hours, limits and conditions for reversal, how work tools are to be provided and expenses reimbursed, union representation of teleworking individuals, health and safety conditions, employer oversight systems, and the right to privacy of teleworking individuals.
Under Venezuelan law, none of the above-mentioned matters are specifically regulated in the case of teleworking which actually allows the parties to somehow regulate the specific situation. However, since Venezuelan labour legislation is of public policy we foresee potential employment claims resulting from professional illnesses, overtime work, right to privacy issues, while impairment of labour conditions due to lack of performance may be knocking on our doors in the future.
Venezuela has the worst internet connection in the region as well as electricity issues on a regular basis. Venezuelan workers have no culture of teleworking which may result in a need for constant supervision. It has been difficult for employers to recognise underperforming workers remotely. It has also been difficult to accomplish efficient teamwork and supervision.
Balancing family and remote work has been an important challenge to deal with due to the pandemic. Most workers are only able to render their services after online schooling and homework end. The fact that our general working schedule is so rigid, with no space for flex-time, will result in overtime payment claims if the parties have not been able to agree on working hours schedules.
Moreover, mandatory lockdown did not allow employers to inspect their workers’ homes to assess remote working risks and prepare preventive measures. This may result in professional illnesses and work accidents claims against employers.
Due to the pandemic, we envisage working remotely will continue for at least one more year. However, this whole experience has allowed companies to analyse their office space requirement and what positions may allow teleworking to continue, letting employers be more cost-efficient and I expect we will see structural changes in many organisations.
From a Venezuelan perspective, multinational employers must realise that the lack of teleworking legislation in the country may lead to potential employment claims, so it is important to regulate such a regime between the parties.