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(en) Poland, ozzip: The reality of remote work - not all that glitters is gold - Klara Wysocka [machine translation]

Date Fri, 14 May 2021 09:57:09 +0300

According to the data of the Central Statistical Office, at the end of last year, over 1.5 million employees worked from home[1]. Most of the people working in this way did so on the basis of the "remote work" mode introduced in the government's anti-crisis shields. Although the first social research on this topic shows that "only every tenth employee would like to return to the office permanently"[2], remote work - like other forms of working from home - is associated with a number of problems that are difficult to see at first glance.
The available research and reports clearly show that working from home is becoming more and more common. According to At the end of 2019, the Central Statistical Office (GUS) employed just over 700,000 people. people - mostly in the form of the so-called "Telework", which was introduced to the Labor Code in 2007. The sharp increase in the number of employees and workers working from home occurred with the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic: in the fall of 2020, already 1,100,000 people worked in this way. people. At the end of December last year this number increased to 1,609,000, ie 9.7% of all employed persons.

The increase in the number of people working from home was related to legal changes: over a million people who at the end of December last year worked remotely, it did it under the provisions on remote work, which introduced the so-called "Covid laws" ("anti-crisis shields"). These regulations give employers much more freedom in organizing work from home compared to teleworking - the decision to transfer work from the office to the home is faster and does not require union consultations or employee consent, and the scope of the employer's obligations is much smaller compared to the regulations of the Code work.

There are also many indications that this form of work will stay with us for longer. According to a report by ManpowerGroup and HRLink, more than half of employers currently using remote working plan to continue using it after the outbreak ends[3]. Most of them want to use the "hybrid model": part of the working time employees will spend in the office, and part at home.

The reality of working remotely - survey OZZ Employee Initiative

To get to know the realities of remote work, in February and March this year. We conducted a survey in the Employee Initiative committees that operate in workplaces where this mode of work was applied. A total of 13 committees from the following sectors participated in the survey: education (3), culture (3), trade and services (4), media (1), public administration (1) and logistics (1). The results of this preliminary study show that, as the saying goes, "all that glitters is not gold" and that remote work creates a whole host of new problems for the world of work.

Lawlessness of employers

In almost all of the workplaces covered by the study, employers introduced remote work without consulting trade unions, most often in the form of separate regulations or orders relating only to remote work. The exception was the University of Wroclaw and Avon Distribution Polska: in these plants, employers consulted and took into account the proposals of the unions.

The lack of employee control over establishing the rules for performing remote work results directly from the regulations of "covid acts", which - unlike teleworking - did not impose on employers an explicit obligation to consult with trade unions. Despite this, the committees of the Employee Initiative at Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS) and Agora asked employers to start talks on the principles of remote work, based on the arguments that trade unions have a statutory influence on the corporate rules of organization of the work process and the ability to control compliance with health and safety rules.

Additional costs or savings?

Seemingly, remote work allows for significant savings related to commuting. In practice, however, it also generates additional costs, which are often unnoticeable: from additional expenses for electricity, through the need to purchase an additional Internet service package, to workplace equipment (computer, telephone, furniture adapted to long office work). Covid laws do not refer to these costs at all, and additionally allow the provision of remote work with the use of employees' private equipment.

More than half of the representatives of the IP committees, when asked whether remote work rather generates savings or additional costs, decided that it rather generates additional costs. Moreover, apart from three workplaces, these costs are in no way reimbursed by employers. The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and Primary School No. 8 in Torun paid employees and employees a one-time allowance in the amount of approx. PLN 500 for remote work in 2020. Avon, on the other hand, offered its employees an additional internet package. In the remaining plants, the requests of the IP commission for reimbursement of additional costs related to remote work remained unanswered or the employers refused to grant allowances.

The following regularity is also clearly visible in the responses to the survey: in the private sector, employers most often provide work equipment, while in the public sector, employees and workers use their own equipment. The latter solution generates additional costs for employees and employees related to the wear and tear of the equipment (and the need to purchase / replace the old one when the old one is worn out), which would normally be borne by the workplace.

Working time - longer and more intense

In theory, remote work does not change anything in terms of working time. In practice, almost all of the committees that participated in the survey indicated that remote work significantly changed their working hours.

The representative of the commission from the University of Wroclaw notes that "The time devoted to correspondence with students, preparing lectures with multimedia presentations, recording and posting them on the web, checking and commenting on written statements of hundreds of students on forums, etc., significantly exceeds the daily norms of computer work." Most committees indicate that the working time of people working remotely has increased, and there is also a feeling across all industries that working remotely has led to an increase in the number of responsibilities.

People working in business services also indicate that the working time begins to "spread" around the clock: "The employee becomes easily available, i.e. you can force him to answer the phone or log in to the employee mail, because it is" only for a while "." People working in culture, education, administration and logistics have a similar impression.

What changes do we need?

For a long time, we have heard announcements that remote work will be regulated "permanently" in the form of new provisions of the Labor Code. Consultations on this subject are currently underway at the Social Dialogue Council. What specific regulations will be their effect is not known at the moment.

On the basis of the surveys conducted, it is known what changes are necessary from the employee perspective. First of all, it is necessary to guarantee the influence of trade unions on the organization and rules of remote work. In the second, employers must be required to cover all costs generated by remote work. In the third, strict regulations regarding the settlement of working time are necessary and prohibiting the performance of work outside specific working hours. These three postulates appear in all survey responses, regardless of the industry. However, it is unlikely that they will be included in this form in the upcoming amendment to the Labor Code - primarily because they will entail costs for employers and will reduce the hitherto arbitrariness in organizing remote work. Ultimately,

Jakub Grzegorczyk / Warsaw Environmental Commission

[1]Central Statistical Office, Information on the labor market in the fourth quarter of 2020, source: www.stat.gov.pl
[2]"Poles do not want to return to work in offices", Business Insider, 4/09/2020. URL: https://businessinsider.com.pl/twoje-pieniadze/praca/praca-zdalna-w-polsce/rz9n2n8
[3]"Poles do not want to return to work in offices" ...

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