Technological progress has a magnificent impact on everyday business life, and one of the things made possible by it is creating the opportunity for employees to perform work outside their business premises. But although technological progress gave employers the means to operate their business through remote work, the rigidity in incorporating this work model in practice was shaken only after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, making the expansion of remote work models a result of practical necessity. The sudden spread of remote work in companies also brought concerns of legal nature, and questions like what are the best ways to regulate contracts, safety measures etc.
The Serbian Labour law stipulates that an employment relationship may be established for the performance of work outside of the employer’s premises. This type of work includes working from home and remote work, which means that remote work and working from home should be anticipated as types of employment relationships that differ from the “classic” employment only in the place of work.
The Specifics of the Remote Working Contract
An employment relationship established in terms of providing the performance of work outside of the employer’s premises must contain all the elements that a typical Employment Contract contains, as well as additional mandatory provisions which regulate the specifics of remote work and working from home. The previously mentioned specifics are the following:
- Duration of working hours according to work norms;
- The way of supervising the quality and up-to-date work of the employee;
- Means of work in order to perform the tasks that the employer is obliged to enable, install and maintain;
- Use of funds for the work of the Employee and reimbursement of costs for their use;
- Reimbursement of other labour costs and the manner of the determination of those costs;
- Other rights and obligations.
Guidance to Safe and Healthy Work From Home
In order to make life easier for employers and employees to work in the circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the Serbian institutions which is an integral part of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs has provided Guidance to Safe and Healthy Work from Home document, which can be found on the website of the Ministry. The abovementioned Guidance, among other things, prescribes the following:
- The employer keeps the responsibility for the implementation of the safety and health measures at remote work in the same manner as when the Employees perform their work in the employer’s premises. Since the law prescribes the minimum standards of safety and health measures at work, it is highly recommended that the rights and obligations of the employees are specified in the general act of the employer (Collective Agreement or Rulebook) or in the employment contract;
- Unless the employment contract has been concluded for remote work from the beginning of the employment relationship, in order to regulate the status of the employee, it is necessary for the employer to conclude an annex to the contract, which will include the possibility of work from home or remote work for a certain period of time, in accordance with the decision on the schedule of working hours made by the employer;
- The general act of the employer or employment contract determine: the jobs that are supposed to be performed by the employees, necessary resources for the performing tasks; conducting supervision over the work and quality of work performance; control, safety and health measures;
- In order to make work conditions for the employee safe, it is necessary to: provide the workspace for the employees that work from home (if conditions allow it), appropriate work equipment (computer, monitor, etc.), organize work in a way to harmonize family and business obligations, as well as to make sure that the lack of direct contact with the employer and colleagues does not have a bad influence on work performance. The employer should, in cooperation with the employee, provide him with good working conditions, take care of the work organization, provide equipment (if the employee does not own it) needed to perform work, and to consider the working hours and holidays that he is obliged to secure;
- The employer must determine previously if the work can be performed safely and with high quality from home, i.e. to determine if the employee fulfils all the necessary conditions for safe and healthy work at home;
- The Employer needs to provide his employees regularly with information regarding safety and health at work, while the employee has to protect himself from potential injuries during work, as well as to report to the employer any injury incurred during the performance of work.
Rights and Obligations of the Employees
Having everything previously written above considered, we can conclude that the obligations, for both contracting parties, of remote work and work from home are the following:
Obligations of the employer are:
- to provide a safe and healthy workplace and work environment;
- to take care of the health of his Employees;
- to provide work equipment;
- to supervise the performed work and to maintain contact with the Employees.
Obligations of the employee are:
- to implement measures for safe and healthy work, to purposefully use work equipment, as well as to check the workplace before starting with work;
- to balance between private and work life;
- to maintain regular and prompt communication with the employer or the responsible person for safety and health at work;
- to obey the Employers instructions on safety measures at work.
According to all the facts mentioned above, it is easy to come to a clear conclusion that both employers and employees who work remotely or from home should have the same rights and obligations as when the work is being performed in the Employers premises. However, it is fair to say that the existing provisions do not regulate remote work clearly and precisely enough. The provisions of the guidance of safe work from home and the Law on safety and health at work should definitely be updated with more precise provisions, but when will these deficiencies be corrected remains to be seen.
This text is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Should you require any additional information, feel free to contact us.
By Radovan Grbovic, Partner, and Petar Knezevic, Trainee, Samardzic, Oreski & Grbovic