From the beginning of the pandemic, working from home has been an important measure against the spread of the coronavirus. Only employees who are essential to the business process and cannot perform their work at home, are allowed to come to the workplace. The government has published a guide with general criteria for employers and employees to follow, when considering whether someone should work at home or on location.
When deciding whether an employee should work at home or on location, the government’s advice remains: ‘Work at home, unless there is no other option’. Not everyone can work (completely) at home, due to, for example the nature of the work or personal circumstances. For them, the workplace must be safe and healthy.
It is then up to the employer, together with the works council or employee representative body, to develop a policy on working from home. The handbook is divided into several criteria, from both an employer and employee perspective, for determining whether or not an employee can work from home and to remove any uncertainty about that choice. For example, if the work requires the physical presence of the employee and that presence is strictly necessary for the progress of an indispensable business process, or for pressing social reasons (such as assistance), the employer can ask the employee to work on location.
In addition, the guide gives examples of arguments that are usually not perceived as ‘good reasons’ to work on location or at home. For example, the fact that the employer wants to have insight into whether the employee is performing his work properly, is not a good reason for having the employee work on location.
Include measures in the RI&E
If working on location is necessary, the regular Dutch health and safety obligations apply on the work floor, and the workplace must be in line with the RIVM guidelines. It is important that the Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RI&E) is adjusted to the risks of the coronavirus and incorporates measures to prevent infection in the workplace. This also includes the measures for employees who work from home.
Reporting unsafe work situation
If, after mutual consultation, unsafe work situations (continue to) exist, it is possible to report this to the government. In principle, not working from home is not an offence. The government may, however, take action if the workplace does not comply with the RIVM-guidelines.
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