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Work from home – home office

In today’s blog, we’re going to take a look at the so-called home office, i.e. working from home. Under what conditions can an employee use a home office and what does it mean for them and their employer?

Žena sedí na svém gauči a pracuje na počítači
7 minutes of reading

Chapters of the article

The working environment is currently undergoing a quite fundamental revolution. The new generation is no longer interested in spending their days in offices and workplaces; rather, most would welcome more flexible working conditions. One of them is the so-called home office or working from home. This can be a welcome alternative to the normal way of doing work, both for employees and employers. For example, it allows employees to adapt their working hours entirely to their needs and time availability. On the other hand, the employer can save the costs of setting up a workspace for such an employee.

However, this way of doing work also poses a certain challenge for both parties. The employee himself must be able and willing to work efficiently with his time in order to complete and submit the work task on time (e.g. he should not be a person with regular procrastination which he is unable to suppress). The employer must then be able to manage and control such an employee despite having very limited supervision over him.

Home office is increasingly common

As more and more services move online, there is much less need for on-site staff and it also saves a lot of time. The home office is bucking this trend, allowing for the inclusion of employees who would only have great difficulty commuting to a city centre office (e.g. due to disability).

If the home office combined with e.g. virtual reality offices were to become widespread, it would bring with it a major transformation of our surroundings. Ugly places on the outskirts of big cities may become depopulated, while everyone will want to live in interesting places in today’s peripheries.

For the time being, the concept of home offices is rather new to our legislation. The need to strengthen it legislatively has already become apparent in the period of the covid. In practice, at the moment, the laws are responding with a delay. Currently, an amendment to the Labour Code has entered into force, which responds to the possibilities of the home office. The amendment provides for an employee who does not work at the employer’s workplace, but, in agreement with the employer, performs the work assigned to him/her from home or any other location that is both convenient and suitable for the performance of the agreed work. However, the term home office is imprecise. An employee in the so-called home office mode may perform his work anywhere outside the employer’s workplace, including in public areas of various cafés or hubs. However, they must, as a rule, be able to connect to the employer’s server.

The prerequisite for telecommuting according to the Labour Code is the existence of a written agreement that explicitly allows it. The only exception to such a situation responds largely to the recent covid epidemic and allows for an ex officio “forced” home office. This is provided that the nature of the work being done permits it and the telework location is suitable for the work to be carried out. The amendment also addresses the payment of costs incurred by the employee.

The employee as master of his time

According to the Labour Code, the hallmark of a home office employee is that the employee schedules his or her own working hours in which to complete the work tasks imposed by the employer. He is therefore the master of his own time, but he must hand in the finished work by the deadline that is set.

The home office also allows for the possibility that the employee may “pop in” to the workplace from time to time to pick up documents, to hand over the results of work or to socialise with other employees at work events, etc.

Tip: The Chamber of Deputies has approved a major and extensive amendment to the Labour Code, effective from October 2023. The amendment to the Labour Code increases employees’ rights quite significantly and also seeks to take friendly steps towards reconciling employees’ work and private lives. What does it regulate?

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What are the rules for using the home office

So, as the legislation is very brief, the most important thing at this point is the employer’s agreement with the employee on what the rules of their home office will be. This agreement can either be part of the employment contract or stand outside of it. What is important, however, is that it respects the fact that the Labour Code also applies to this employment relationship. Therefore, this arrangement cannot somehow exclude some of the employee’s rights; the only things not covered by this agreement are obstacles to work, scheduling of working hours, and remuneration for overtime and public holidays. In this case, the employer cannot schedule the employee’s working hours, determine the start and end of shifts, or determine whether the employee is to work Monday to Friday or on other days. This is entirely up to the employee, who must be able to schedule his or her own work so as to be able to do it. The employer is limited only by the fact that the amount of work he assigns to the employee must be manageable by the average employee within the weekly working hours (40 hours per week).

However, this freedom to organise work does not mean that the employee can arrange for a ‘deputy’ to do so. Even in the case of home office employees, the employee is obliged to carry out his work exclusively in person. Although the employer has no real possibility of absolute control over the fulfilment of this obligation.

What is the employee entitled to in the home office?

In the case of the question of remuneration for the work done by the home office employee, it again depends on the agreement. He or she may be entitled to both piece rate, flat rate and hourly pay, depending on what has been agreed between the employee and the employer. If the employee in question works (because he or she chooses to do so) on a public holiday, he or she is not entitled to either holiday pay, time off in lieu or additional pay for such work. Nor will he or she normally be entitled to overtime compensation.

However, special compensation may be negotiated for the use of the home environment or his own tools. This is reimbursement of costs incurred by the employee in the performance of work (energy, internet, printer cartridges, own work tools – operation and maintenance) – it can be negotiated on a unit or lump sum basis.

What about health and safety at work?

Although home office work is carried out outside the possibility of constant control by the employer and, moreover, in an environment outside the employer’s workplace. Nevertheless, these employees are not exempt from the regulation of occupational health and safety obligations, including the employer’s obligations in relation to accidents at work.

It can be assumed that the work tasks assigned to home office workers are unlikely to involve any hazardous work. This does not, however, reduce the risk of potential accidents at work, nor does it relieve employers of their preventive and other OSH obligations. In the first instance, it may be advisable for employers to train these employees and for this training to be tailored to the conditions of the specific home office (different conditions will need to be met if the employee is actually working from home, different if he or she is constantly on the road or in public areas of cafés, etc.). In practice, however, we are inclined to believe that the responsibility will primarily lie with the employee himself.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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