Existing unanchored practice, as well as the need to transpose Directive (EU) 2019/1158 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on the work-life balance of parents and carers, led to the draft law amending Act No. 262/2006 Coll., Labor Code. However, the draft amendment to the Labor Code sparked and continues to spark further discussions about how remote work should be legislatively regulated. It was this workshop that conveyed different perspectives and experiences with remote work, and offered a space for their discussion and sharing of best practice experiences.
On 14/12/2022, a workshop organized by the Office of the Government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications took place on the topic "Remote work." The Business Alliance for the Company took part organizationally in the program of the discussion panel "Experience and practice of employers", in which our signatory companies participated and which presented their experiences of good work flexibility and telecommuting practices.
At the beginning of the workshop, Jana Skalková, Head of the Department of Advisors of the Minister's Cabinet, spoke, who mentioned that the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly changed the way work is performed, and showed that remote work has become a common modern way of working in many companies. She further said that the Czech Republic is one of the few countries that does not have this form of work firmly anchored in our law. This is precisely why this amendment is coming, which should set the legislative framework for the institute of remote work. Her colleagues from the Ministry of the Interior, Kristýna Cuchá and Taťána Zelená, then presented the specific parameters that the amendment will contain, although it is still difficult to make small partial adjustments, as it is still in the approval process.
The next part of the workshop dealt with sociological insights from the pandemic experience. Jakub Grossman for IDEA-CERGE EI presented new data on the economic situation of households, which is based on the project "Life during the pandemic" of the research company PAQ Research. In this way, we could learn, among other things: How the pandemic affected people's work; What percentage of people lost their jobs; How many hours a week they worked less or, on the contrary, more; How the impacts differed for different population groups and more. Detailed information can be found on the CERGE-EI website or at https://zivotbehempandemie.cz.
Next, Lenka Formánková from the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic spoke, who shared the specific experiences of the interviewed persons, how they worked during the pandemic and how the transition to working from home affected other aspects of their lives. Lawyer Šárka Homfray also spoke on the panel, who presented the press release of the position of the Trade Union of State Bodies and Organizations ČMKOS. She pointed to the difference in the approach to work flexibility in government and the private sector during the pandemic. In the state administration, only about 20% of employees worked from home during the pandemic. The main reasons for limited flexibility were insufficient digitization and capacity of information systems. However, this is gradually improving and there is a gradual digitization and electronicization of state administration agendas.
In the last panel, our signatory companies spoke and shared their experience with remote work - Renáta Millerová, HR Director at Thermofisher Scientific, Roman Nosko, Head of HR at Continental Barum and Tomáš Ondroušek, HR Country Leader at Kyndryl.
They all agreed that telecommuting is a common and desirable part of their employees' work schedule. Most companies allowed remote work even before the pandemic, but Covid-19 has greatly accelerated the transition to working from home. As Renáta Millerová mentioned: "We implemented remote work already in 2019, because we perceived the need to respond to the needs of the company and employees. Covid then accelerated the need to work in the so-called hybrid model, which we fully set up for the entire company in 2020. As part of the implementation, we did not only deal with the legislative and health and safety aspects, but also focused on the area of managing people remotely and in so-called hybrid teams, digital literacy and employee well-being. Today, hybrid and remote work is an integral part of the so-called onboarding of managers and employees. Since the beginning of the pandemic, not only our signatory and member companies have not only set internal regulations that are in line with the existing Labor Code, but also adapted other company procedures and overall working conditions. From the point of view of many private sector employers, the amendment comes a little late, as many of them have already created their working models for working from home, as Renáta Millerová further stated: "We positively perceive that the amendment brings more precision to remote work and the possibility of tax optimization, but relatively clearly defines the flat rate and under what conditions remote work can be carried out. The new set-up may have the effect of limiting working from home rather than promoting it. As risk factors of flat-rate payments for a model set up in this way, we perceive the need to readjust existing models for companies that have set up work from home, the creation of "inequity" within the company, especially in the case of a hybrid method of cooperation, and lower competitiveness vis-à-vis foreign branches." Similarly, was also expressed by Tomáš Ondroušek, who said that: "The Kyndryl company is the largest IT employer in the country, and the possibility to work remotely is very important in our field. The fact that we are trying to create an environment that is as flexible and accommodating as possible in this regard is perceived very positively by our employees. Along with other measures aimed especially at employees returning from maternity/parental leave and families with small children, we are trying to stand out from the crowd on the labor market. From the point of view of a large employer, it is important that we can manage such an environment effectively." The possibility to work remotely is also a very important criterion when choosing a job, as it gives us more personal control over our lives. An OECD survey conducted this year in 25 countries showed that 74% of male and female employees positively evaluated their experience of working remotely during the pandemic, and most of them would like to be able to work remotely in the future as well. Despite the possible pitfalls it brings with it, it is a very welcome and desirable form of work.
Even though we perceive the transposition of the European directive into our legislation as important, including the anchoring of the remote work institute, we still think that it may be unnecessarily introducing the regulation of some parameters, which in the end might not bring the expected result. Legislation should provide employers with legal barriers to navigate and could leave the detailed setting of conditions up to them.
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