The telework law spends four months between chaos and confusion over how to apply it, especially in times of confinement and widespread forced telework. Anna wrote to her bosses shortly after the law was published. “The answer was that the company has no capacity, that they don’t pay or will pay for electricity or water supplies, obviously, and that they won’t buy us a screen, a table or a chair, nothing at all,” he explains. . A few months later Anna made a second request, this time because she had a contracture from the middle back to the root of the head that forced her to wear a collar. The company reiterated that “it did not have the capacity to provide computers, tables and chairs to everyone.”
“I was very fucked up for 10 days. Seeing that I was going for a long time and they didn’t do anything about it, I bought a screen and a chair, and set up an office,” this worker told ACN.
Anna’s situation is shared by many Catalans, at a time when teleworking has gone from an incidence of 5% to around 30% of those employed, according to a Eurofund study. However, the Inspectorate has received virtually no complaints of such practices, according to sources in the Department of Labor.
This Saturday marks four months since the publication in the Official State Gazette (BOE) of Royal Decree-Law 28/2020, which establishes a difference between regular distance work and that developed in the context of the covid pandemic -19. Also this week expired the deadline to update agreements and contracts that already provided for telework before the pandemic, as three months have passed since the entry into force of the regulations.
While the rule is clear regarding the obligation to provide the means, equipment and tools required for the development of remote work, in the case of expenses the situation is more widespread, according to several lawyers consulted by the ‘ACN.
In the case of regular teleworking, the decree states that there must be individual agreements between workers and the company detailing an inventory of the means needed to do the work from home, listing the expenses and how to do it. will quantify the compensation.
In the remote work caused by the covid-19, the regulations say that “collective bargaining will establish the form of compensation for the costs arising” from the remote work. However, since the decree came into force, the extent of these agreements has been minimal. What happens if there is no agreement to offset the expenses? The professor of Labor Law at UPF, Eusebi Colàs-Neila, warns that the worker “loses strength to assert the right” he has as an employee not to cover business costs and, if superiors refuse to pay, only it remains for him to opt for the courts.
Lawyer and professor of labor law at the UOC Pere Vidal considers that the rule “is unfortunate in making the distinction” between covid and non-covid telework, “and leaving in the hands of collective bargaining” the compensation of expenses, especially at a time when “collective bargaining is at a standstill.” In this sense, it indicates that “those who are not subject to the royal decree law may be more protected” because they work at a distance of less than 30% of the day. In this case, the Workers’ Statute already makes it clear that employees “do not have to bear any expenses arising from the work they do, and instead the Royal Decree-Law opens the door to the expenses that they can be captured through collective bargaining if they are not 100% compensation, ”the lawyer states.
Since the law was published, union delegates and workers have encountered “a multitude of problems” in agreeing on compensation and getting companies to pay for the means to work, according to Núria Gilgado, secretary of Trade Union Policy at the UGT. The unionist acknowledges that “there are still not too many agreements that have reflected the new regulations,” as “collective bargaining is paralyzed.”
Among the few advances in telework that have been achieved is that of the banking agreement, which is about to close, and which offers a computer, mobile phone, ergonomic chair and a maximum of 55 euros per month in expenses, according to have explained sources present in the negotiations.
The Department of Labor hopes that the situation will improve and begin to move once the Interprofessional Agreement of Catalonia is closed, which is being negotiated between unions and employers and which then reflects the collective bargaining by sectors and companies .
So far, most agreements have been reached individually, a context in which the worker “is in a state of helplessness,” Gilgado explains. The consequence of this practice are cases such as that of Anna, who is convinced that the reason for the cervical injury she suffers is the stress suffered at work, caused in part by doubts about losing her and by precarious conditions. in which he has worked until he was injured. “At home we organized ourselves as best we could, as the four people who reside in the home never work from there, normally,” he remarks.
One of the agreements in which the payment for supplies is being discussed is that of telemarketing – which has 10,000 employees working from home. The employer “offers absolutely ridiculous compensation, of 15 euros a month,” explains the leader of UGT. In these four months, in Gilgado’s opinion, it seems that “companies want telework not only to come out for free, but to earn profits from it, because it saves costs and they don’t want to offset expenses.”
Employees who are in Anna’s situation, that is, who have demanded that the company provide the necessary means to work without getting it, can inform the Labor Inspectorate or the social court. . “The quickest and easiest option is to report it to the Inspectorate,” said Labor lawyer Pere Vidal. The labor police have already required companies such as Indra to provide ergonomic chairs, footrests, keyboards or screens “urgently” to teleworkers in Madrid. For the time being, and taking into account that no complaints have been received, the Catalan Inspectorate has not sanctioned companies for violations of the telework law.
“The rule is not telling you that covid telecommuting should be precarious, if workers complain, and there is a requirement for Inspection and companies persist in not putting the means in place, this is punishable. These are rights that can be claimed by the workers “, explains the UOC professor and member of Augusta Abogados.
However, in the case of employee bill claims, such as heating, electricity or the Internet, inspectors will not be able to say anything until there is an agreement between unions and the company.
In the middle of winter and given that the next bill for electricity and gas can be exceptionally high, Vidal recalls that the non-agreement between unions and the company on supplies “does not mean that the worker can not claim compensation of the expenses he is having to work “. If the employee wants to claim this receipt in court, “it will not be a priority procedure and will be indicated one year in advance,” says Vidal.
In the same vein, the professor of Labor Law at the UFP, Eusebi Colas-Neila, warns that “it will be necessary to determine very clearly the origin of the expenditure and establish the causal link with the fact that it is teleworking.” The labor expert adds that “the problem with a rule that grants rights that require their development through collective bargaining is that, until it happens, it is difficult to make them effective because their determination would be left to the ‘interpretation of a judge as a last resort’. According to Colas-Neila, the “legal basis” in this case would be “very weak.”
The sources consulted predict that during the winter months staff will begin to put pressure on superiors and unions to reach a telework agreement.
On the other hand, a new problem that the union teams have detected is the unnecessary imposition of face-to-face work. In fact, a study by human resources firm Hays published this week indicated that 22% of workers believe they could work remotely but don’t because of company reluctance. An example of this problem was given to the telemarketing company Konnecta, where the return to work not agreed upon after the Christmas holidays led to a strike every Monday in February, which ended up being called off when the company stepped back.
In some cases, non-adoption of teleworking can lead to a health risk when there is a case of covid in the workforce. This week in Albert’s management (fictitious name) they met a positive superior who had been having symptoms for days, but was going to work. “The boss and two other people went for a private test, but the rest were not offered to us, arbitrarily,” he told ACN. Before he returned, the workers called the CAP directly, which processed the 10-day termination of all contacts. “When we said we had resigned there was a commotion. ‘The head was unprepared and tried to tell us that we had not been direct contacts,” he says.
“We should do telecommuting, of course. It’s a totally unnecessary risk, with a remote control on the computer at home you do exactly the same job,” says this worker who does not believe the experience will serve to change the situation. “They’re a bit square and obtuse and they have the idea that if we go home we won’t work which is a lie because you have to do the work anyway because if you don’t your hair falls out,” he adds.
Unions encourage workers to report non-compliance with labor regulations and to fight “teleprecarity” but many, like Anna, do not want to risk reporting. “I’m sure no one will say to me, ‘We’ll pay you the bill for everything you’ve paid for yourself and for all the expenses you’ve made.’ The pandemic has helped everyone in small businesses roll up their sleeves. at home and in the end no matter how much a law says that employers have to pay you I don’t know what, many of us have resigned ourselves “, laments this worker.