Remote work is a flexible form of employment that can be performed outside the actual place of work on a voluntary basis and according to agreed upon rules. Remote work is distinguished the fact that it is independent of time and place. Employees can work all or a part of their hours remotely.
With the development of communication technology, remote work has become increasingly popular in many professions. This applies in particular to information workers and experts, but jobs such as telesales and manufacturing can also be done remotely.
Efficient remote work requires trust and mutually agreed rules
Labour law does not expressly recognise the concept of remote work. Despite this, the Employment Contracts Act, Working Hours Act and Occupational Safety and Health Act form the legal basis for all employment, including remote work. As the popularity of flexible working arrangements has grown rapidly, a number of proven practices have emerged for remote work.
Following agreed practices makes day-to-day work easier and reduces the potential for conflicts. Remote work arrangements are usually agreed in writing or follow ground rules that have been agreed mutually with the company’s employees. Due to the many possible forms of work, the issues that must be agreed may vary from company to company.
Usually, the terms that must be agreed include:
- when is remote work possible and when is it not
- working hours in remote work
- how work results are monitored
- sick leave policy
- information security
- possible costs and their distribution.
It is important that employers agree with employees on key issues related to remote work, including information security, monitoring of occupational stress and strain, and contingency planning.
Working hours in remote work
As a rule, the Working Hours Act applies to remote. By law, records must be kept of employees’ working hours. The employer has a legal obligation to supervise that safety and healthiness of employees’ working methods. The need to enforce limits on working hours is not suspended when the work is performed outside the employer’s site of work.
The length of the work day is one of the key indicators to look at when preventing harmful stress and strain. On the other hand, the employee’s personal responsibility for work arrangements and adequate breaks is highlighted in remote work.
Not all remote work arrangements are covered by the Working Hours Act. Such situations referred to in section 2 of the Act must always be assessed as a whole and on a case-by-case basis.
Safety at work and remote work
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the employer must ensure that work is performed under safe and healthy conditions. This applies to all places where work is performed. Assessing hazards and harms is an essential part of this duty to exercise care.
Remote work is often performed at home or in conditions whose safety is difficult for the employer to determine and assess. The constitutional right to domestic peace must also be taken into consideration in these cases. It is important that employers ensure together with employees that remote work is safe, ergonomic and free from interruption.
Employers must also systematically monitor factors that cause harmful occupational stress and strain. Anticipation and planning increase employee wellbeing as well as productivity by avoiding sick leaves due to physical or psychological strain, for example.
The employee’s personal responsibility for their wellbeing is emphasised in remote work. Employees must be able to self-direct their work and separate work and time off. Employees also need to critically evaluate their work methods in order to identify potential risks. Occupational health care provides expert assistance in risk management in the form of advice and instructions for various forms of work.
The employer’s statutory accident insurance is also valid in remote work. Occupational accidents refer to accidents that occur during work or while commuting. However, there may be limitations on insurance cover in the case of remote work. It is advisable to check the terms and conditions of the insurance beforehand.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002)
- Section 5 – Application of the Act to work done in the employee’s or other person’s home
- Section 8 – Employers’ general duty to exercise care
- Section 10 – Analysis and assessment of the risks at work
- Section 2
- Section 13
Employment Contracts Act (55/2001)
- Chapter 2 Section 4 – Information on principal terms of work