Remote work has become widespread in Serbia – and dominant in industries like IT – while the country is facing both layoffs and a shortage of workers, depending on the sector, according to NKO Partners Partner Danica Milic.
"In Serbia, remote work has recently been a primary discussion point," Milic begins. "Remote work models have become widespread and even dominant in some industries, not only due to technical progress but also as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the IT industry has seen the wide adoption of remote work, with employers making efforts to accommodate employees who prefer this model, allowing them to work from home or other locations."
At the same time, Milic highlights that "the rise of remote work has also raised legal concerns, such as how to regulate it in contracts, how to manage working hours and supervision, and how to address health and safety issues." Additionally, she says there are "concerns about the utilization of work-related tools and equipment, as well as the reimbursement of associated costs. These concerns highlight the need for organizations to carefully consider and internally regulate the legal implications of remote work, especially considering that Serbian law lacks clear and precise regulations on remote work, even though it allows for remote work agreements." For example, "regarding health and safety, it is the employer's responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for employees, but specific provisions should be included to clarify that employees are also responsible for maintaining a safe and distraction-free home working environment," she points out.
Furthermore, Milic adds that "post-pandemic, some companies have found the need for organizational changes, including restructuring and redundancy procedures. Lawyers have frequently been involved in creating redundancy programs for various companies over the past six months, as this need has become more widespread." In addition to assisting with redundancy programs, she notes that lawyers "also help companies to explore alternative options for targeted employees before letting them go. This includes considering measures required by law, such as finding other types of employment within the company or helping employees change their qualifications through seminars and courses to transition to another company with different requirements."
"Despite companies’ efforts to find work in different departments or sections and shift the workforce, unfortunately, layoffs have still been necessary in some cases," Milic points out. "The most significant layoffs have been observed in production companies working with non-essential commodities. The implementation of upgraded technologies has resulted in reduced demand for labor on new machines, leading to workforce reductions in these industries."
"Still, the construction sector has shown potential for employment opportunities," Milic adds. "There has been an influx of workers from different continents coming to Serbia to seek employment in construction and transportation, such as bus driving. A significant number of Serbian workers have left for Western countries, creating opportunities for foreign workers in these areas."
"Furthermore, the IT industry in Serbia has been experiencing growth and expansion, providing additional employment opportunities for individuals with relevant skills and qualifications," Milic notes. "Despite the challenges faced by certain industries, there are still areas where employment opportunities can be found and pursued in Serbia."