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Amendment of the Labor Code. Commentary of trade unions

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NSZZ Solidarność, OPZZ and Union Alternative are of the opinion that the amendment to the Labor Code is necessary, but it requires many amendments. According to trade unionists, the introduction of remote work in the form of an agreement between the parties is an opportunity to create or improve social dialogue in the workplace.

The Sejm is working on an amendment to the Labor Code, which will introduce a definition of remote work into the code. Remote work will be possible in a completely remote, hybrid and occasional form. The amendment also defines who and under what conditions will be able to apply for a job in this form. – What is in the draft is actually a combination of the existing regulations on telework and remote work introduced during COVID-19 – told PAP Dr. Anna Reda-Ciszewska, an expert NSZZ Solidarity.

During the pandemic, employers introduced remote work in their companies on the basis of art. 3 of the Act of March 2, 2020 on special solutions related to the prevention, prevention and eradication of COVID-19, other infectious diseases and crisis situations caused by them. The Act provides that the employer may instruct the employee to work remotely during the state of epidemic emergency or state of epidemic caused by COVID-19 and within 3 months after their cancellation. So far, the state of epidemic threat has not been lifted.

Changes in the Labor Code – comments of trade unionists

According to the trade unions, the amendment to the Labor Code is necessary, but it requires amendments. The principles of remote work should be established in consultation with trade unions at the company or nationwide level. The costs of remote work should be clearly defined, and the introduction of a cost catalog could help avoid abuse.

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Currently, the project provides for full remote work, partial and occasional work. Most likely, partial remote work will be the most popular, noted Dr. Anna Reda-Ciszewska.

NSZZ Solidarność was against complete remote work in the form proposed in the draft amendment. According to representatives of Solidarity, complete remote work could be allowed in multi-enterprise collective agreements. – If the employer would like to introduce full remote work, he should conclude a multi-enterprise agreement with a representative of the trade union. We suggested that it should be a representative of the WRDS (Provincial Council for Social Dialogue – ed.) or the Social Dialogue Commission – said Dr. Reda-Ciszewska.

The director of the legal and intervention department of OPZZ, Paweł Śmigielski, said that remote work should be introduced only by means of an agreement between the trade unions and the employer. An agreement on the introduction of remote work in a specific company can be – according to him – a very good platform to improve, or in some cases, to create a social dialogue in the workplace.

– The introduction of remote work in the form of an agreement between the parties is an opportunity to develop a new social dialogue in the workplace – Śmigielski told PAP.

The act provides for a solution if no such agreement is reached. The legislator then provides for the possibility for the employer to define the rules for remote work, while taking into account the arrangements made with the trade union.

The chairman of the Trade Union Trade Union, Piotr Szumlewicz, pointed out that union membership in Poland is at a very low level. “Companies with no trade unions may be open to abuse when remote working is introduced,” he said.

In his opinion, the regulations should be clearly formulated in this case and indicate specific solutions that companies should stick to. As he noted in an interview with PAP, it is important that the regulations governing remote work be introduced as soon as possible, but he hopes that they will be further refined.

According to NSZZ Solidarność, the costs of remote work should be regulated in generally applicable regulations. – The employer will issue regulations for remote work if he fails to reach an agreement with the trade union. It should be borne in mind that in many workplaces there are no trade unions – said Dr. Reda-Ciszewska.

“These can be quite high costs for the employee”

OPZZ indicates that in the amendment it would be worth expanding the catalog of employee costs related to remote work, which should be reimbursed to the employee by the employer.

As noted by Paweł Śmigielski from OPZZ, the draft lists only part of the costs that will be associated with remote work, i.e. the costs of electricity and telecommunications services necessary to perform remote work. According to him, there are no other costs directly indicated in the content of the draft, for which an employee performing remote work should receive compensation from the employer. It lists, among others, utilities such as heating, water or garbage disposal.

– These can be quite high costs incurred by the employee when performing remote work. It would be good if the legislator directly indicated these costs, and not just provided for the possibility of including them in the agreement or in the regulations, Śmigielski told PAP.

– Regulations on remote work are a good opportunity to introduce directly into the Labor Code the right to exclude an employee from the work cell and from the work e-mail. (…) to make it clear that the employee’s readiness to answer business calls and reply to business e-mails should be counted as additionally paid overtime – said Szumlewicz from the Trade Union Alternative.

The Trade Union Alternative is of the opinion that the availability of employees for e-mail or telephone communication should be treated as working time. The introduction of the right to opt-out into the Labor Code would expand the category of overtime, for which employees would receive additional remuneration. International experience shows that employees working remotely work longer than those working on-site, pointed out Szumlewicz.

– It should be remembered that remote work is subject to all labor law standards, i.e. the employee is guaranteed rest standards, working time standards, i.e. everything we have in the Labor Code – told PAP Dr. Anna Reda-Ciszewska. However, there is no specific solution in the draft that would guarantee the employee the right to disconnect. As other countries have introduced, she noted.

OPZZ is also in favor of introducing the employee’s right to disconnect (the right to be offline) on the occasion of the amendment to the Labor Code. – From the beginning of the legislative work in the area of ​​remote work, we applied for the introduction of provisions on the employee’s right to disconnect on the occasion of this amendment. This is an important topic that has come up in particular with remote work. Performing remote work in many cases leads to the blurring of the line between working time and private time of the employee. (…) Unfortunately, none of the parties accepted these demands – said Paweł Śmigielski from OPZZ.

Read also: Two increases in the minimum wage, remote work and sobriety checks. New year for employees and employers

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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