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Serbia: The Benefits and Downsides of Executing a Work-from-Home Employment Agreement

Serbia: The Benefits and Downsides of Executing a Work-from-Home Employment Agreement

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The COVID-19 pandemic caused many changes in doing business and, therefore, also had a significant impact on regulating the mutual rights, obligations, and responsibilities deriving from employment.

Due to the insufficiently precise provisions of the Labor Law regarding work outside the business premises of the employer, as well as lacking practice, employers in Serbia were caught off guard and forced to adjust the working process to the quarantine rules, the restrictions in movement, the lack of means for preventing the spread of infectious disease, etc.

Luckily, as time passed by, it became clearer what the options of organizing work outside the business premises of the employer are. Pursuant to the provisions of the Labor Law, employer and employee may agree for the work to be conducted outside the business premises of the employer, i.e., from home.

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many employers intend to limit access to the business premises for those employees who are either not vaccinated or do not have a negative test for the virus. However, Serbian legislation does not stipulate the right of the employer to process the personal information of the employees and, therefore, to prohibit their access to their place of work.

That said, it is undisputed that in order for the work outside the business premises of the employer, i.e., work from home to be introduced, there has to be a consent of the employee.

When executing an employment agreement for the work outside the business premises of the employer, i.e., work from home, or when executing an annex to the employment agreement for such purposes, the Labor Law stipulates mandatory elements for such employment agreements or annexes to the employment agreement. Namely, the parties must regulate working hours, the manner of conducting supervision of the employee’s work, the means of work that will be provided to the employee (that the employer is required to install and maintain), compensation for expenses for the usage of those means of work, and compensation of other expenses.

The compensation of expenses for work from home became the main issue when executing the employment agreement, i.e., the annex to the employment agreement for work outside the business premises of the employer. It is considered that this compensation should cover the expenses of electricity, internet connection, and other expenses that employees might incur due to organizing work from home. However, since it would be quite complex to determine the exact amount of these expenses – which part represents the private expense of the employee and which part represents work-related expenses – this compensation is usually determined as a flat amount, paid per day or per month, depending on the period for which work outside the business premises of the employer is agreed.

Since employees are not entitled to the compensation of expenses for commuting to and from work for those days of work that are spent at home (working remotely), employers usually redistribute this expense to cover the expense for work from home.

It is important to stress that employees who are working remotely are entitled to the same basic salary as the employees who conduct work at the business premises of the employer. In addition, work outside the business premises of the employer, i.e., work from home must be regulated in a manner that allows the employee to use rest periods during work, daily rest, and weekly rest periods in line with the law.

Although working from home has many benefits for both employers and employees (it allows for a higher level of flexibility, it is more cost-effective, etc.), it also has its downsides. Employees usually communicate only via e-mail, making them feel more isolated, which may affect the relationships between co-workers and team morale. In addition, remote work can make it quite difficult for the employer to monitor the performance of the employees.

Consequently, many employers tend to combine the two, i.e., enable employees to split their working time between work from home and work from business premises of the employer, as the most productive solution.

Regardless of whether employees will work full working hours remotely or only a certain part of those, the employer is still required to amend its general acts, as well as employment agreements, in order to stipulate the mutual rights, obligations, and responsibilities of the parties when the work is conducted outside the business premises of the employer.

By Jelena Nikolic, Partner, JPM Jankovic Popovic Mitic

This Article was originally published in Issue 8.12 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.

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