Negotiating telework: thinking outside the comfort zone

download PDF

Contents: 1. Introduction. 2.Telework: a solution for which problem? 3. From a classic model to a mental shift. 4. The autonomous work relationship and working time. 5. The working time definition. 6. Four modes of telework. 7. Functions of working time. 8. Negotiating future-proof telework deals.

1. Introduction

The European social partners have made new attempts to find an updated agreement on telework. Labour markets experienced a rapid rise of telework worldwide since the Covid-19 pandemic. During the sanitary crisis, it was central to the many measures taken by governments and companies alike. In this context, telework became even a general rule for many situations of work, either recommended, or mandatory. Yet, telework is not a novelty. Teleworking has long been on the policy and labour law agenda. In 2002, the European social partners concluded a European framework agreement on teleworking. It is also a fact that telework is here to stay. Recently, European-wide negotiations started in the framework of European social dialogue to update the rules on telework, including the role of working time and the right to disconnect. The negotiations have not yet led to a final agreement. Negotiating telework requires a real effort. The Covid pandemic taught us that telework presents many challenges, especially given its almost inevitably specific and rather disruptive dimensions of time and location.Those challenges are also legal in nature.This editorial contribution aims to foster the discussion and proposes that a negotiated instrument on telework will have to take on a number of novelties and will need to fit within a new paradigm shift related to work and employment relations.