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Parliament approves teleworking bill, public sector may be included in future legislation

The House Plenum has voted in legislation regulating the conditions governing remote working.

During the 16 November debate preceding the vote, almost all parties agreed that significant improvements had been made to the bill and that, if it was implemented correctly, its benefits would be manifold.

It is worth noting that the new legislation does not currently cover the public sector although the government has committed to regulating teleworking in the public sector as well in 2024, possibly through a new bill.

Telecommuting is not mandatory.

What does the legislation provide for?

Based on the legislation, teleworking is defined as the provision of work, remotely, by an employee using technology, pursuant to a full-time, part-time or other form of employment contract, which could be provided from either the employer's premises or a workplace outside of the employer's premises.

The regulations, based on the revised text, also cover the employees of legal entities under public law and local self-government authorities.

The law also refers to the implementation of teleworking on an optional basis, following a relevant agreement between employer and employee.

The application of teleworking by exception is made by decision of the employer, for reasons of protecting public health and following the issuance of a relevant decree by the Minister of Health, pursuant to the provisions of the Law on Infectious Disease Control and upon application by the employee. This would be in a case where there is a documented risk to an employee’s health if he works on the employer's premises, and which can be avoided if the employee in question works remotely, for as long as this risk lasts.

The legislation includes the employer’s obligation to cover the costs arising for the employee as a result of teleworking, as well as the obligation to provide the necessary technical support to the employee for the provision of work carried out remotely. The employer is also to inform his employees about the essential terms of the contract or employment relationship that are different due telecommuting, in paper or electronic form, within eight (8) days from the start date of the telecommuting.

Also included in the law is provision of protection and securing of the labor rights of employees who work remotely, as well as prohibition of any discrimination against an employee who does not consent to work remotely, as well as the employer’s obligation to evaluate the performance of the employee who works remotely in a way that respects his privacy and ensures the protection of the employee's personal data.

Other provisions include requiring the employer to carry out a written teleworking risk assessment to adequately ensure the safety and health conditions of teleworking employees and giving teleworking employees the right to disconnect from electronic media used for teleworking, which consists of the right of the employee to completely refrain from working outside the agreed working hours.

It also includes the provision for the appointment and powers of inspectors whose main task is to ensure the full and effective implementation of the proposed legislative framework, establishing the offencee of obstructing the work of the inspector, which is punishable by a prison term not exceeding six ( 6) months and/or a fine not exceeding ten thousand euros (€10,000) and establishment of the offense of breach by an employer of any of the proposed provisions, which is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand euros (€10,000).

Also, the law includes the provision of authority to the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance to issue decrees on issues that, among other things, concern the definition of the most specific safety and health rules during teleworking, as well as the minimum technical and organisational means that ensure the exercise of the right to disconnect and the determination of the inspection procedure by the inspectors, as well as any other technical detail related to the inspections that will be conducted for the effective implementation of the proposed legislative framework.

It is worth noting that, as was said during the Labour Committee sessions during discussions on the legislation, the regulation of telework in the public service by the end of the year 2024 is included in the commitments of the Republic of Cyprus in the context of the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, for the for which the Ministry of Finance is responsible.

Provisions were introduced to respond to the various concerns expressed, including a provision expressly prohibiting the employer from engaging in continuous monitoring through the use of a camera or other similarly intrusive application to monitor the employee's performance.

In cases where an employee requests to work remotely due to a documented risk to his health and the employer disputes this risk, the relevant examination is undertaken by medical boards as defined under the provisions of the Social Insurance Act (Medical Boards, Secondary Medical Council and Specialist Doctors) Regulations, instead of being defined by a decision of the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance.

Legislation welcomed by Panayiotou

The Plenum’s approval of the law on teleworking was welcomed by the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance Yiannis Panayiotou, who, at the same time, noted that the law confirms that through unity, dialogue and consensus mutually beneficial decisions can be made for progress and prosperity.

"We welcome with satisfaction the decision of the House of Representatives to approve the bill for the use of technology for remote work, which is a very important step for the labor market of our country", the Minister said.

He added that "technological developments create important prospects for the future of work which, through the appropriate legislative regulations, strengthen the flexibility of employment and the development of the economy."

Panayiotou noted that "the law on teleworking is a significant success of the efforts of the current and previous government, the social partners and the parliamentary parties, which confirms that through unity, dialogue and consensus can be mutually obtained beneficial decisions for progress and prosperity.”

He assured that "the government will continue to methodically and effectively manage all the important issues that remain open, achieving results that serve the public interest, in accordance with the needs of society and the potential of the economy."

(Source: InBusinessNews)

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