In response to the pandemic, restrictions have been implemented internationally, often including the requirement to work from home where possible. As the vaccination programme is underway and restrictions are cautiously reviewed, we consider what the future world of work may look like and whether home working is here to stay.
Do employees have a right to continue working from home after the lockdown restrictions have lifted?
It is difficult to anticipate whether employees will have a right to continue working from home after the end of the lockdown restrictions.
Before the pandemic, the work from home was strictly framed: it required the employee's acceptance (employment contract or addendum); a specific occupational indemnity was due if the work from home was at the employer's initiative, in the absence of an alternative place of work; etc.
During the pandemic, the employer is entitled to force employees to work from home, without having to pay any specific compensation.
Recently, new restrictions have just come into force in some French geographic areas such as Paris, so the government is pushing for more work from home (at least 4 days a week).
The lockdown restrictions may be lifted at some point, but it is unlikely that working from home will not continue to be encouraged until the end of the year. Working from home is considered as an efficient measure to curb the pandemic, so it is likely to be encouraged even after the end of the other lockdown restrictions.
After the pandemic, it may be that the "normal" work from home will be less strict, we cannot exclude the possibility that the government will ease the implementation of working from home to permit more employees to continue working from home. But this topic is not discussed at the moment.
Should employers have a policy dealing with home working and what are the key points?
Yes, if employers want to implement working from home on a non-exceptional basis, they should have a work from home policy, which mainly states:
- The equipment provided to the employee;
- The reimbursement of professional expenses;
- The private insurance that must be taken by the employee to cover the work from home;
- The calculation of the occupational indemnity if the work from home is at the employer's initiative, in the absence of alternative place of work;
- The health and safety rules applicable whilst working from home;
- The priority of the employee to hold a position within the company's premises.
In addition, working from home must be expressly accepted by the employee, within the employment contract (or an addendum).
Can an employer require employees to work entirely or predominantly from home? Is employee consent required? What are the main risks?
In the context of the pandemic, the employer can require employees to work entirely or predominantly from home.
In the absence of the pandemic, the working from home requires the employee's individual consent as it is a modification of an essential part of the employment contract.
If the employer does not obtain the employee's approval, the employee can refuse. The employee can also take constructive dismissal on this basis
Do employees have any entitlement to allowances/benefits if required to work from home?
Yes, when employees work from home, the employer reimburses all their professional expenses.
In addition, if working from home is at the employer's initiative and the employer does not have any alternative place of work, the employee is entitled to an occupational indemnity, which aim is to compensate the fact that the employee is forced to use his private home for work.
The indemnity is usually between 50 and 100e per month. The amount depends on the rent cost, surface of the house dedicated to work, local taxes, heating cost, etc.
What are the key trends in relation to home working?
Before the pandemic, employers were generally reluctant to implement working from home.
During the pandemic, employers realised that working from home did not affect the employee's productivity. However, a lot of employees who requested working from home became more reluctant.
It is likely that after the pandemic working from home, occasionally or on a part-time basis, will be more usual, as employers are less reluctant. However, it is unlikely that many employees will completely switch to permanent home working.