Article: Should remote work be a legal right – or a privilege?

Workforce Management System

Should remote work be a legal right – or a privilege?

People Matters takes a look at how Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and India are providing legal frameworks for remote work as a right.
Should remote work be a legal right – or a privilege?

Governments all around the world are considering whether to make remote work a legal right, but the idea of returning to the office is appealing as it can reinvigorate city centres and business districts.

Recently, however, the Netherlands introduced a new law that would make remote work legal. The legislation specifies that employees can only reject work from home arrangements if the employee has a valid reason.

The Netherlands’ new law comes as countries grapple with persuading employees to return to the office after the COVID-19 pandemic. The country will be one of the first in the world to establish remote work as a legal right.

Will other countries follow suit? 

Australia

In Australia, a study by PwC revealed that about 90 per cent of workers want to keep working from home even after the pandemic.

Australian workers find the remote work arrangement more convenient because they can customise their workspace, keep their schedule flexible, and save money and time from the daily commute.

For parents, carers, and persons with disabilities, remote work can have significant effects. They have been advocating for a work from home setup for years because it promotes accessibility.

Unfortunately, there is still no legislation in Australia that pushes for remote work as a legal right, regardless of parental status, age, or disability.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, most businesses are not obliged to send employees home.

Based on the Employee Relations Act, individual employment agreements indicate where an employee must work. Typically, it will be at the employer’s business premises.

On the one hand, employee consent is required if the employer wants them to work remotely because it changes the terms of employment.

On the other hand, an employee can insist on working remotely as a preference, which will require the employer’s agreement.

Singapore

For many Singaporeans, the routine of returning to the office is more difficult than before.

An Institute of Policy studies (IPS) report revealed that almost half of Singaporeans surveyed believed that flexible work arrangements should be the new norm for workplaces. About 20 per cent believed that remote work should be the new norm.

Singapore is unlikely to approve legislation that enacts remote work as a legal right. The Ministry of Manpower says that the country must not take an overly rigid approach that can harm the workplace culture with more disputes or affect the employability of citizens.

The country is taking a softer approach of guiding and providing resources to help companies implement remote work and flexible work arrangements in a sustainable way.

India

In January 2021, the Government of India made a standing order that asks employers and employees to fix working hours and other working services based on mutual agreement.

This move was considered a symbolic step towards remote work, especially because most employees in India at that time were working from home.

The Government of India may formulate a league framework for remote work, which could also be implemented in hybrid work arrangements. However, there is still no deadline regarding this framework. There is also no binding law that requires remote work in the country.

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Topics: Workforce Management System, Performance Management, #RemoteWork

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