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    Drawing up a homeworking policy for employees

    Working from home, forever

    Being forced to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic made employees realize its many benefits and has led to a desire among the working population to continue working from home even after the pandemic is over. In order to facilitate the permanent possibility of working from home, it is recommended to draw up a collective homeworking policy, referred to as a ‘thuiswerkregeling’ in Dutch. Such a collective policy can then be used as a basis from which to make individual agreements with employees on working from home or hybrid working.

    Regardless of whether we will ever manage to fight off the coronavirus, it is clear that working from home is to stay. Both employees and employers have realized there are many benefits to working from your own house or apartment. At the beginning of the pandemic, the ‘great homeworking experiment’ was started and much concern arose about the effect and consequences, but in the meantime we have grown used to it and many organizations have taken steps to facilitate working from home as much as possible.

    Successful

    A lot of organizations have thus concluded that working from home should be a permanent possibility for their staff. If your organization does not yet have a policy on this – or the policy stems from before the coronavirus pandemic – it is recommended to draw up a new collective homeworking policy. Such a policy provides a clear picture to both employees and employers about their rights and duties and can contribute to clarifying the conditions required in order to make working from home a success.

    Align

    You want to have your employees involved in drawing up a new homeworking policy. By collecting input from them, you can create a policy which aligns as much as possible with the desires and wishes of your staff. This way, the policy will receive wide-scale support. Ask employees what they want regarding different topics covered in the homeworking policy, such as the working conditions at home, reimbursements and provisions, availability, schedules, communication, ICT, etc. One way of doing so is by having them fill out a questionnaire (anonymously). Or you can have the works council actively involved in decision-making.

    Consensus

    One important question which everyone must agree on is in which situations working from home should be possible and for how many days or hours each week. Although employees can have their say on this issue, they currently cannot claim a right to work from home on a legal basis. However, it is still possible certain rights for this have been included in the collective labor agreement. Moreover, it is also possible your organization already has agreements on working from home in place or that rights have been acquired over time. If none of this is the case, however, you as employer have the freedom to make all decision at your own discretion. There may be good reasons for you to implement restrictions on the possibility to work from home. If you need help, you can download the digital guide ‘Algemene criteria thuiswerken’ (General Criteria on Working from Home) – currently available in Dutch only. This document lays down the criteria for when working in an office space or on a work floor is permitted and contains ideas on how to make it possible for employees to work from home in seemingly impossible situations. Once you have made up your mind, you can include in the policy restrictions on when and how often employees are permitted to work from home. It should be considered explicitly stating in the policy that the employer always has the final say in whether or not an employee can work from home. Moreover, also state explicitly in which situations a decisions can be withdrawn.

    Terms of Employment

    Once finalized, the homeworking policy can be added to (the digital version of) your organization’s employee handbook. You can then make individual agreements with employees for a work-from-home contract or hybrid work contract on the basis of this collective homeworking policy. If these individual agreements in some way alter the existing terms of employment, you need the respective employee to give his/her consent to the changes. And last but not least: remember that once agreements have been made and the contracts are signed, there is no turning back like that. Therefore, give the necessary attention to your organization’s homeworking policy!

    Context

    Role of the works council

    It is recommended to involve the works council in the decision-making process when drawing up your homeworking policy. Although a homeworking policy is not specifically mentioned in the law as requiring the consent of the works council, you will need the council’s consent for various topics covered in the policy, such as rules on working hours, resting times, working conditions policies, work meetings and installing software to monitor employees. Moreover, the works council has a right to give advice in some situation.

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