The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has published an eagerly awaited draft amendment to the Labour Code introducing several new changes, the most significant one being the comprehensive regulation of home office. A more detailed regulation of remote work is something that employers had been lacking, which was particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the proposed changes are far from entirely positive.
The current wording of the Labour Code regulates only the work of homeworkers, i.e., workers working entirely from home for long periods of time and scheduling their own working hours. The regulation of home oﬃce as we know it today, i.e., alternating work from the employer's workplace with work from home during working hours determined by the employer, is completely absent. The amendment builds on earlier efforts by the ministry to regulate this area and aims to align Czech legislation with relevant EU regulations.
The amendment introduces the right of employees to ask their employer to allow them to work remotely. If the employer grants the request, an agreement must be concluded. If not, the employer must provide the grounds for the refusal, in writing. For pregnant employees and those caring for children under 15 years of age or other dependants, their employer's position is more complicated: in principle, the employer must grant the request for home oﬃce unless serious operational reasons or the nature of the performed work prevent remote work. The employer must again provide the reasons for denying the request in writing. The amendment thus goes beyond the EU directive that establishes the right to home oﬃce only for parents of children under 8 years of age.
An agreement on remote work will have to be entered into in writing and will have to include: the place(s) of performance of remote work, the method of communication between the employee and the employer, the method of assigning and monitoring the work, the scope of remote work and the detailed conditions for the scheduling of working hours, the method of compensation for costs incurred, the period for which the agreement on remote work is concluded, and the manner in which the employer ensures occupational safety and health, including its monitoring, and the employer's permission to enter the place of work to clarify the cause and circumstances of any work accident.
Both parties will have the right to terminate the agreement, even without giving a reason. For employees who are legally entitled to home oﬃce, the agreement may be terminated only for serious operational reasons or if the nature of work no longer allows home oﬃce.
What about compensation for home oﬃce costs?
The most controversial point of the amendment is the regulation of employee expense compensation. Employers are already obliged to bear all the costs incurred in the performance of the employee’s work, i.e., including increased costs related to home oﬃce. However, the lack of coherence between tax and labour legislation results in any lump-sum compensation being treated as taxable income. Employers are thus left with the completely impractical option of providing compensation only for proven expenses. The amendment eliminates this problem but creates another one: it introduces a relatively high minimum lump-sum compensation for increased energy costs of CZK 2.80 for each hour of remote work. Any additional costs incurred by the employee above this amount will also have to be covered by the employer. The entitlement to this compensation cannot be legally waived by the employee.
Uncertainty in occupational safety and health area remains
Another weakness of the amendment is that it does not bring any relief concerning occupational health and safety. The employer remains fully responsible and is newly obliged to determine in an agreement how they will ensure and monitor the compliance with occupational health and safety regulations, without the legislator providing any guidance on the content of such an agreement.
Given the ever-increasing demand for home oﬃce, we consider this more detailed regulation as a move in the right direction. However, the proposed wording imposes a significant administrative and ﬁnancial burden on employers, which may ultimately lead employers to instead restrict this employee-valued beneﬁt. We can only hope that the problematic points of the amendment will be modified during the legislative process.
Barbora Cvinerová firstname.lastname@example.org +420 733 591 361
Veronika Halalová email@example.com +420 222 123 101