The Warsaw Voice » Law » Monthly - September 19, 2007
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Teleworking: Home, the Final Frontier
Polish politicians do not often agree on things, but exceptionally the bill on telework has been given unanimous backing in Parliament.

Telework is defined as work performed regularly outside of the workplace, where the employee transmits the result of his or her work by electronic means. The telework legislation has been well received by experts because they see it as increasing labor flexibility and providing opportunities for those who cannot find appropriate forms of work at present, for example disabled persons or mothers with small children. On the other hand, they point out that some provisions make the hiring process unnecessarily complicated, by forcing the employer and trade unions to establish the terms of telework in an agreement. This, however, is only a minor irritation as, if no agreement is forthcoming within 30 days, the employer can set up their own rules merely taking into account the opinions of the trade unions.

An overview of teleworking as per the Labor Code.
There are two ways of becoming a teleworker:
  • From Day One-signing an employment contract that, in addition to the components required by the Labor Code, includes terms and conditions relating to teleworking.
  • A current employee becomes a teleworker-this requires the mutual consent of the employer and employee and may be initiated by either side. It cannot simply be forced on an unwilling employee by a so-called "amending termination" whereby the employer offers the employee new terms of employment.

Where the teleworker was previously a regular employee, there is a three-month initial period during which either the employer or employee may decide to discontinue teleworking and request reinstatement of the previous rules of work. Reinstatement must take place within 30 days of delivering the notice to this end and cannot be used as a reason for terminating an employment contract.

The employer is under obligation to supply the equipment needed for teleworking, pay insurance for it and cover the costs of installation and maintenance. The employer should also provide adequate training.

The employer and employee might also wish to sign a separate agreement in which they state that the employee's computer equipment will be used for teleworking; then the employee is entitled to a cash payment in recognition, for an amount agreed on by the parties. This cash payment will be excluded from the scope of taxation under the act on personal income tax.

Teleworkers are protected against workplace discrimination. They cannot be treated less favorably in terms of employment, concluding and terminating employment contracts, promotion or access to professional training aimed at improving qualifications.

Teleworking entails less stringent health and safety obligations for the employer, but is worth mentioning that the employer should check health and safety observance, at the request of the employee, before the commencement of telework.

Employers are entitled to check up on whether teleworkers perform their duties properly, but this cannot infringe on the employee's right of privacy. Employers are also entitled to supervise use of any electronic equipment entrusted to the employee, as well as any maintenance and repairs.

Teleworking may also provide relief to companies that find it difficult to meet all the legal requirements for employing disabled persons, as special provision is made for them under teleworking regulations.

Thus far, telework has been implemented by many innovative companies from the IT sector. The hope is it will spread to other areas and bring new opportunities for the unemployed, the disabled and women on childcare leave. It is by no means a panacea-it demands new styles of work and communication between employees and with line managers. Teleworking appears easier to introduce for goal-driven tasks, but human resources specialists point out that teleworking brings with it its own dangers. Very often teleworkers do not feel they are part of the company and can feel socially isolated. Teleworking provides risks and opportunities with respect to family life. Perhaps more importantly still, managers could face an uphill struggle in organizing telework properly. This is an intriguing area of employment that needs to be approached with open minds by all involved.

Aleksandra Minkowicz-Flanek
Paweł Krzykowski