Social partners negotiated ground rules for remote work

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Union of Private Sector Employees, Printing, Journalism and Paper (GPA-djp)

Like many countries across the world, we had no specific regulations for telework in Austria until the pandemic forced 4 out of 10 employees to work from home. My union GPA represents white-collar workers across all sectors, so we immediately started an international exchange to learn about existing legislation and agreements in other countries.

In autumn 2020, the social partners negotiated a framework agreement. Parts of it have been introduced into legislation by the government, while other elements are implemented via collective agreements. As 98% of the workers in Austria are covered by collective agreements, sector-specific solutions can be added through negotiations. But there are some key principles that apply to all teleworkers.

Remote work can only be arranged voluntarily if both the employee and the employer agree on it, and there must be a written agreement between the individual partners. It is also recommended that company agreements should be negotiated between the management and the works council, to set fair rules for all employees.

In principle, the employer should provide teleworkers with work equipment. If employees agree to use their own equipment, they are entitled to reimbursement of expenses. However, employers should and may also contribute to other additional running costs (electricity, heating etc.). Moreover, certain costs are deductible.

All provisions of the Working Hours Act and the Rest Period Act, and the applicable provisions of the Employee Protection Act, also apply during remote work. Employers are obliged to provide instructions on ergonomic workplace design and health and safety issues.

Now, workers and employers both have legal certainty for teleworking arrangements. The agreement on remote work once again proves that social partners come up with good solutions via social dialogue and that governments can build on their expertise.