Occasional remote work, an institution provided for by an amendment to the Labor Code, entitling employees to work remotely for 24 days per calendar year, is already very popular in practice, especially among employees. What do employers think about it?
Advantages of occasional remote work “at a glance”
It seems that the popularity of this new institution is primarily due to two issues:
- employees can apply for occasional remote work regardless of whether the employer has remote work in workplace;
- the employer is not obliged to provide such an employee with work materials and tools or cover the costs of remote work, including the payment of a lump sum.
When can an employee apply for occasional remote work?
Contrary to appearances, not in every situation an employee’s application for remote occasional work will be justified.
Although the regulations do not explicitly provide for situations in which an employee has the right to make such a request, as we read from the explanatory note to the amendment:
- the institution of remote occasional work will find application in special, incidental situations;
- the peculiarity of this type of remote work is the desire to respond to the legitimate needs of the employee, dictated solely by his interest and personal situation.
An example of an employee’s use of remote occasional work would therefore be:
- the need to care for a family member in need of support;
- the need to travel to another locality for personal matters.
Can an employer refuse occasional remote work and when?
The employer is not required to grant the employee’s request for remote occasional work. Moreover, the refusal to grant an employee’s request for remote occasional work does not require justification.
In order for an employee to perform remote work, therefore, the employer’s approval is needed for the employee’s application for occasional remote work.
However, the amended provisions of the Labor Code do not regulate by what date:
- the employee may make such a request;
- the employer must consider it;
which means that it may be helpful for employers to regulate these issues internally, through in-house procedures.
Employee entitlement or work organization tool?
However, it seems reasonable to argue that in view of the prohibition of discrimination and the broader interests of the employer, occasional remote work should be treated, on the one hand, as an entitlement of the employee and, on the other hand, as a benefit subject to the express consent of the employer.
The employee’s arbitrary remote occasional work, provided without the employer’s permission at the employee’s prior request, can be seen as a violation of the employee’s duties, and in extreme cases be a reason for termination of the employment contract, even – without notice.
Should occasional remote work be regulated by the employer?
Given the above, and the fact that agreeing to an employee’s request for remote occasional work still obliges the employer to, a.o.:
- define procedures for the protection of personal data;
- draw up information on safe and hygienic conditions for performing remote work;
- preparing an appropriate statement for the employee;
it must be said that the employee’s use of remote occasional work is not easy – and for both the employer and the employee.
Although the employer is relieved of some of its obligations regarding remote work, there are still a number of documents to be implemented.
Therefore, it is reasonable that, although there is no obligation to establish rules for the performance of occasional remote work, the details of its performance should be clarified, if only in the remote work regulations.
Remote occasional work, while already sounding appealing to many employees and employers, opens up another topic for discussion. How to count 24 days? Does the pool of days pass with the employee to the next employer?
On the one hand, it is a solution introduced on an ad hoc basis, for employees whose employers have not implemented total or hybrid remote work – meeting the expectations of employees in exceptional situations. On the other hand, obliging employers, agreeing to this form of work, to draw up a number of documents.
For this reason, our recommendation is to regulate remote occasional work, including the rules for its performance, for example, in work regulation. This will allow employers to avoid organizational chaos, facilitate communication with employees and ensure uniformity of rules. We encourage you to contact us now – we will be pleased to help you through the implementation process.
Paula Staszak-Urbańska, LL.M., Trainee attorney-at-law (PL)