Due to the coronavirus, working from home has become the (temporary) standard for many. Research has shown that half of the employees who have worked from home have a positive experience with this and many expect to continue working at home even after the coronacrisis.
However, the employee’s right to adjust the place of work is limited. The legislative proposal ‘Work where you want’ aims to change this.
Current legislation: Flexible Work Act
The Dutch Flexible Work Act regulates the rights of the employee regarding working hours, working time and place of work. If an employee wishes to change his/her place of work, a request can be submitted to the employer, if he/she has been employed by the employer for at least six months. Although the employer is required to consider the request, he may reject it on any ground.
This is different in case a change of working hours or working time is requested. In that case, the employer must grant the request, unless there are compelling business or service interests. When rejecting the request, the employer must argue why there are compelling business or service interests. Substantial interests include economic, technical or operational interests that would be seriously harmed if the request were granted.
Legislative proposal: ‘Work where you want’
The proposal not only wants to stimulate working from home during the coronacrisis, but also aims to respond to the changed standard of working from home.
The “Work where you want” proposal amends the Flexible Work Act in some respects. With the proposed amendment, the request to change the place of work will from now on be treated in the same way as a request to change the working time or working hours. This means that the employer must grant a request to work from home, unless there are compelling business or service interests against this. When rejecting the request, the employer must argue why there are compelling business or service interests.
Scope of the proposal
The ´Working where you want´ act, applies to employers with ten or more employees. The Act may be deviated from when the employment contract is governed by a CLA that includes a relevant provision regarding the workplace. If no CLA applies (or the CLA does not contain a relevant provision), the employer may, with the consent of the works council (or staff representative body), deviate for a period of 5 years.
Consequences for the employer´s duty to provide a safe workplace
When the employee works from home, the employer must provide a safe and healthy workplace. To provide a safe and healthy workplace at home, the employer is obliged to provide an ergonomically designed workplace at home and to conduct a policy on psychosocial workload. The ‘Work where you want’ proposal does not change this.
According to the Advisory Committee on Regulatory Pressure (ATR), the legislative proposal has serious shortcomings in the problem definition, analysis and substantiation of the need to amend the law. It remains to be seen whether the law will be passed (in this way). We will keep you informed of developments.