- June 20, 2022
After more than two years into Covid-19, perhaps the most obvious impact of the pandemic on labor force has been the dramatic increase in remote working. Recent statistics record that around 62% of employees aged 22 to 65 are working from home all or most of the time. Tellingly, although it started as a necessity, nowadays the vast majority of employees (approximately 83%) state that they are working remotely by choice.
There are many reasons for which remote work has been and continues to be on the rise. Key factors include the rapid advancements in technology that allow people to work from anywhere in the world and the increasing number of people who opted for telework to transform their well-being.
In Greece, nowadays, remote work has become the norm for most businesses. Impressively enough, prior to Covid-19, only 5% of employees worked from home even if remote work was expressly regulated in article 5 of law 3846/2010. In March 2020, during the first lockdown, Greek employers had to switch, quite abruptly, to remote work conditions for the first time and without any preparatory work. One year later, almost 70% of the employers reported that more than half of their employees have been working remotely.
In June 2021, the Greek Government, aiming to keep up with the fast-paced changes in remote work conditions, amended the then existing legislative framework by virtue of the new labor law 4808/2021. Amid other extensive changes in Greece’s employment landscape, article 67 of the new law regulated remote work and explicitly defined its types and principles. What is more, the new framework has reinforced employees’ entitlements by acknowledging their right to ‘disconnect’, setting out that the cost of all required equipment shall be incurred by employers, as well as providing for an equal treatment among employees and laying down health and safety rules and obligations related to confidentiality and personal data.
For the purposes of specifying the provisions of the new law, Ministerial Decision 98490/3.12.2021 has been the only act issued to date and determined the minimum monthly cost that the employer is required to pay for remote work. Despite further legislative inactivity on this end, it is crucial to mention that the new legislative framework is an overall turning point for Greek employment law and practice, while further special legislation is anticipated in order to better regulate and define the remaining provisions of the new law, especially those related to health and safety requirements, including formal inspections of employee’s workplace and suitability guarantees of the teleworking station. In Spain, for example, employers are obliged by law to carry out risk assessments of the employee’ s teleworking space and ensure that it is free from any risks which could cause or aggravate an MSD (musculoskeletal disorder).
Undoubtedly, the new law is still quite recent and it appears that most employers have implemented a post-pandemic transition to a hybrid work model, combining work from home and commuting to the workplace. But, unless the law regulates clear rules for all aspects related to remote work, employers will not be encouraged enough to maintain the labor market to the digital side.
Taking into account that the real potential of remote work is considerably great in Greece, now more than ever the country requires coordinated efforts especially in terms of infrastructure and investments, as well as huge commitment on the government’s and society’s end to keep the future of work remote. Greece has just entered the race, but to prevail in this new era, it needs to stay agile and be ready to adopt and rapidly adjust to new trends, as they come.
Originally published in Business Partners magazine