New requirements for the remote work and the “right to disconnect” – what comes after the latest amendments to the Labour Code?

New requirements for the remote work and the "right to disconnect" - what comes after the latest amendments to the Labour Code?

The long anticipated changes in the remote work regime are now a fact with the latest amendments and supplements to the Labour Code (the “LC”). Although they have gained wide publicity during the process of their adoption, in substance they did not lead to a significant change in the legal framework of the so-called ‘home office’. However, the employers will need to undertake certain actions to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the recent amendments.

The requirement for the employer and employee to agree on the specific location from which the remote work will be carried out is undoubtedly one of the most discussed amendments. This is also currently the most common approach of the employers when drafting a remote work clause in the employment contract, respectively in the remote work agreements. However, by virtue of the discussed amendments this becomes mandatory and employers who already apply remote work and do not have such an explicit clause should undertake the necessary actions to make their employment documentation compliant.

Another possibility, which was already applicable among the employers, namely – the agreement on more than one place of work, is now explicitly provided under law. On the one hand, this will provide the employees with the flexibility to enjoy the most of remote working opportunities and on the other – the employers will not have to invest additional administrative capacity in constantly signing new annexes to the employment contracts.

It shall also be noted that the employers are provided with the opportunity to unilaterally change the place of work for up to 30 (thirty) working days per annum. However, this will only be allowed if agreed in the employment contract or provided for in the internal rules and only upon the written request of the employee. Whether this opportunity will be effective in practice, it remains to be understood.

The current amendments also maintain the employer’s obligation to provide safe and healthy working conditions. However, the documentation required by the employers for this purpose has been increased. On the one hand, the employers will now be obliged to provide written information on the minimum health and safety requirements, which shall be met by the employees’ workplace (i.e. a room in the employees’ home, villa etc.). On the other hand, the employees shall provide the employer with written information on the characteristics of the workplace they have chosen. If the latter does not meet the necessary requirements, the employer shall object against the choice of the employee to work there.

A regulation on the remote work accidents has been introduced for the first time, which stipulates a reduction of the liability of the employer in cases where the employee has failed to comply with the prescribed rules and regulations on health and safety. However, although this provision is based on the general hypothesis of limitation of the liability of the employer, it does not answer the most common question in practice: what is the difference between a household accident and a remote work accident? Additional and more restrictive requirements regarding the content of the remote work documents have also been implemented by explicitly regulating the way in which the employee notifies the employer of work accidents.

The amendments in question also regulate the procedure for the assignment of remote work and its reporting, taking into consideration the available information systems used for this purpose, including the algorithmic management systems (so-called artificial intelligence). In the context of the personal data protection, the employers will be obliged to provide their employees with the information required by law, as well as to allow the human intervention in case of fully automated decision-making, upon request by the employees.

              Undoubtedly, one of the most significant changes is the provision of a so-called “right to disconnect” for the employees. This was introduced to improve the work-life balance of the employees by giving them the right not to respond to a communication initiated by the employers during their daily and weekly breaks. As an exception to the rule, the conditions under which the employer will have the right to contact the employee during a break may be agreed in an individual and/or collective employment contract. The law does not provide any guidance as to the scope and nature of these conditions, so it is left to practice – by companies and the courts – to determine their parameters.

The content of the present article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

For further information contact:

Mileslava Bogdanova, Managing Associate

Boryana Dzhupanova, Associate