Parliament passed a new law on Thursday which sets out the rights and responsibilities of both employees who work remotely and their employers.
The law includes all private sector and local government employees and sets out the requirements for remote working.
Among those requirements is a stipulation of how remote working can be implemented at a place of work on an optional basis. In these instances, there must be a relevant agreement made between the employee and their employer.
In addition, the guidelines regarding working from home during exceptional circumstances, such as during a public health crisis, have been codified.
The law stipulates that the employer is obliged to cover the costs incurred by an employee due to working from home and is also obliged to provide the necessary technical support for the employee to be able to work remotely.
Additionally, employers are now also required to inform remote employees regarding the terms of their contract of employment via an electronic form within eight days of the beginning of their remote working.
The law also includes a provision for the protection of labour rights of remote employees, as well as the prohibition of any discrimination against an employee who does not consent to work remotely.
Employers are also required to evaluate the performance of employees “in a way which respects the employee’s privacy and ensures the employee’s data is protected”.
In addition, employers must carry out a written risk assessment regarding remote working for their remote employees, to ensure the health and safety conditions of their remote employees.
They must also “give remote working employees the right to disconnect from the electronic equipment they are using to work” – in other words, remote employees must be under no obligation to check work-related computer programmes or work-related emails outside of their contracted hours.
The law also provides for disputes between employers and employees in cases wherein an employee wishes to work from home due to a health-related risk, but the employer disputes this risk.
In these cases, the employee will undergo a medical examination carried out by medical specialists.
The adherence to these stipulations will be evaluated by inspectors, who will be tasked with “ensuring the full and effective implementation” of the new law.
Non-compliance with the law is punishable with a fine of up to €10,000, while obstructing the inspectors’ work is punishable with a prison sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to €10,000.
Following the law’s passing, Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou said he “welcomes with satisfaction” the law, describing it as “a very important step for our country’s labour market”.
He added that technological developments allowing more people to work remotely “are creating important prospects for the future of work, which, though the appropriate legislation, strengthen the flexibility of employment and the development of the economy.”
Akel MP and House labour committee chairman Andreas Kavkalias described the law as “satisfactory”, saying that following comments made by MPs at the committee stage, “improvements have been made and the position and rights of employees has been strengthened.”
He added that passing the law is “important, but only half the work”, saying the real work begins when inspectors begin evaluating adherence to the law.
Disy MP Marios Mavrides was less convinced, however, warning of a potential “downward pressure on wages due to the changes in working conditions”.
Diko MP Christos Senekis said it was “fundamental” to guarantee that remote workers would have their ability to “detach themselves” from work-related computer programmes and work-related emails outside of their working hours.
He added that employers must “absolutely respect the fixed working hours that also apply when people are physically present at work”.
Fellow Diko MP Zacharias Koulias raised questions about the high fines for those who violate the law, saying small businesses “would not be able to cope financially” with such a high fine.
Green MP Charalambos Theopemptou said there are “great advantages [to remote work] when it is utilised correctly, among them the reduction of traffic congestion.”
Additionally, he warned that “great care must be taken regarding what kind of software will be installed on employees’ computers to control and monitor them.”