The Future is Now: The New World of Work in the Czech Republic

Czech Republic

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures put in place in response, countries around the world – including the Czech Republic – have adopted new innovations in the area of employment in a bid to keep their workers safe and productive. One such innovation is work from home.

More than a year after the pandemic began, home-office work has proven so effective, many believe it will become a fixture of our post-pandemic future. But remote work raises a host of legal and administrative challenges. This article – based on the 4 May 2021 webinar The Future is Now: The New World of Work in the Czech Republic and hosted by legal experts Daniel Szpyrc and Barbora Heresova with CMS Czech Republic – explores the impact of 'remote work' in the Czech Republic for both workers and companies.

Remote working models in the Czech Republic

"Office work will definitely change in the future", says labour-law expert Daniel Szpyrc, an associate with CMS Czech Republic, who explains that clients are already seeking advice on how to implement more flexible working regimes.

Home working vs home office

Employees may generally work from home under two different working regimes in the Czech Republic:

  • Homeworking; and

  • Home office.

Although these two regimes of remote work are different, they share various similarities:

  • Neither system can be unilaterally imposed on an employee. The worker must consent to such an arrangement.

  • Even though the employee is working from a home, the employer is still responsible for this individual's health and safety while performing work.

  • The employer must compensate the employee for any costs incurred for remote work (e.g. supplies, utilities, internet connection, etc.).

As stated above, homeworking and home office are distinct. The main difference is that homeworking is recognized by the Labour Code, which defines some exceptions from the general labour rules. On the other hand, the home office is not regulated by the Labour Code, and therefore the general labor rules apply without exception.

Below you may find some differences between the two regimes:

Working hours

Homeworking: offers flexible working hours scheduled individually by the employee.

Home office: the employer schedules employee’s working hours.

Compensation

Homeworking: there is no additional compensation for overtime work, working on holidays, and for other "obstacles at work".

Home office: workers are afforded the same compensation as works working from employer’ workplace, including compensation for overtime, working on weekends or holidays, and for other "obstacles at work ".

Although both types of remote work are being practiced in the Czech Republic, many employers favour the home office paradigm because it guaranties that employees are working within the standard working hours. This allows for better communication and cooperation between employees, teams and managers.

Employers who intend to allow their employees to work from home must conclude Work-from-home agreements with them. These agreements must be executed irrespective of the work chosen for the home arrangement (i.e. homeworking or home office). It is advisable to supplement the agreements with internal policy that regulates work from home in greater detail.

Work-from-home agreements

A good work from home agreement should cover the following areas:

  • The scope of how work should be completed including the days and hours when an employee is responsible for fulfilling duties;

  • How tasks or assignments will be communicated to employees, such as daily video conference establishing that day's duties;

  • How employees are to record their working hours and report them to the employer;

  • The exact location of the home office (or offices since two or more sites are permitted) where the remote work is being carried out;

  • When and how remote workers should be available to supervisors and the amount of time a worker is expected to respond when receiving communication from an employer;

  • The employee's responsibilities for ensuring that the home workplace meets health and safety standards; and

  • The procedures that should be followed and systems put in place to ensure the protection of data in the remote office.

Internal regulations

In addition to work-from-home agreements, employers are encouraged to set down work-from-home policies. Generally, it is recommended that a company's internal regulations address and define the following issues:

  • The principles and definition of home-office work;

  • Limitations on working from abroad;

  • The duties of home-office employees regarding various issues ranging from health and safety to data protection;

  • Define the IT systems, which these employees will use in their remote offices;

  • How these employees will be compensated for the costs of maintaining a remote office;

  • How employer notification should be conducted for a home-office arrangement; and

  • The requirements an employee should follow to request a home-office situation.

Compensation

Since both employment agreements and internal regulations cover the issue of compensation for remote employees, employers should fully understand the scope of their responsibilities in this area.

Basically, a remote employee should not incur the costs of maintaining a remote office. Generally, the specific procedures for compensation should be – as stated above – defined in both internal regulation and the employment contract.

These compensation policies should not only include directly expenses, but also cover "the wear and tear of the employees' private equipment" and utility costs (e.g. heating, electricity, internet connection, etc.).

Given that calculating utility and depreciation costs may be difficult, the parties can also agree on a fixed regular (e.g. monthly) payment to cover all expenses. The reimbursement of costs inevitably triggers tax consequences. Therefore, we strongly recommend that employers seek tax advice before they implement any cost reimbursement mechanisms.

Staff mobility

In the era of remote work, an important new issue in the area of staff mobility is the Shared Job Position, which was recently introduced into Czech law, explains legal expert Barbora Heresova, a lawyer with CMS Czech Republic.

Czech law now allows employers to create a shared job position carried out by two or more part-time employees. In order to establish such an arrangement, the employer should finalise employment agreements with all the workers involved, specifically defining the position as a shared job.

When negotiating these agreements, the employer can state the working hours for this position, but the employees sharing this position can have input on their individual schedule and shifts within this framework.

According to CMS's Heresova, this position was created in order to accommodate employees who wish or need to work but can only do so on a flexible part-time basis (e.g. because they are caregivers responsible for children or the elderly).  For such individuals, this arrangement offers a host of benefits:

  • Employees have the ability to create their own work schedule;

  • More employees can be drawn into the workforce, and consideration is given to groups (e.g. single mothers) who may previously have felt disenfranchised by the employment system;

  • The cooperation between employees in a shared position that bolsters team building;

  • Companies may be eligible for a state subsidy for such positions.

But there are also drawbacks:

  • A shared position does not provide a specific tax advantage;

  • The position comes with increased paperwork since each part-time employee sharing a position must sign an extra job sharing agreement.

Work-from-home travel

Another new staff-mobility issue introduced by work-from-home is travel.  This applies to remote workers with more than one workplace. In this situation, if an employment contract specifies multiple work places, it is important to specify when the work must be performed at each workplace. Otherwise, the employee can be entitled to an allowance for travelling to these locations as it is considered a business trip.

Safety in the remote workplace

As already stated, employers working from home are protected by the same health-and-safety regulations as normal workers. An employer's obligation for ensuring the wellbeing of employees also applies in this arrangement. Employers who fail to do this can be held liable, which has also been confirmed in Czech case-law. 

Overall, employers have the following obligations vis-à-vis worker health and safety:

  • A general prevention obligation: employers must ensure that the equipment (e.g. screen, mouse, chair, desk, etc.) used by remote employees is safe and conducive to good health;

  • An information obligation: employers must provide training to remote workers on how to create a safe and secure home-work environment;

  • Drawing up risk prevention measures: employers must implement policy measures, which specifically detail the ways in which risk can be minimised in the home office and include the identification and evaluation of risks and the ability to "verify" whether the home office is suitable to conduct healthy and safe professional activities.

Workplace safety and COVID-19

In order to ensure the health and safety of employees during the current pandemic, the Czech government has mandated companies to enforce the use of masks in the workplace and to ensure the regular testing of employees to identify infection in the work place.

Further to an employer's obligations to protect the health and safety of its individuals, CMS recommends that Czech employers do the following while COVID-19 remains a threat:

  • Provide for proper sanitation and disinfection stations in the workplace;

  • Create systems to measure the body temperature of employees in order to detect possible infections and bar entry to sick individuals;

  • Ensure that the workplace is cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis;

  • Use online systems as much as possible for communications and meetings in order to reduce personal interactions;

  • Divide the workforce into different teams, which work in different locations and at different times in an effort to promote social distancing and reduce contact between workers;

  • Encourage employees to work from home if at all possible;

  • When workers are operating in proximity to each other, ensure that a distance of two meters is maintained between them;

  • Communicate measures and best practices to employees, which reduce the risk of infection.

In terms of the face-mask requirements, Czech regulations state that:

  • Employers must provide staff with surgical or respirator masks;

  • Certain high-risk employees (e.g. drivers, cashiers) must wear respirator masks;

  • Each employee should receive a sufficient supply of masks to complete a given shift in safety;

  • Employers must bear the expense of providing masks.

Exempt from these rules are home-office workers and employees who are operating alone in a given office.

Mandatory testing

The Czech government's regulations on mandatory COVID-19 testing in the workplace include the following requirements:

  • Employers must ban entry into the workplace of any employee who cannot produce a negative COVID-19 test result.

  • Employees must be tested at least once a week.

  • Testing can be done with self-testing technology or through a healthcare professional.

  • The government will remunerate employers for the expense of conducting up to four tests per employee each month.

Employees can be exempt from these regulations in the following circumstances:

  • Present a negative RT-PCR test result or a negative POC antigen test performed by a third-party healthcare professional.

  • The employee has been fully vaccinated.

  • The employee tested positive for COVID-19 no longer than 90 days ago, self-isolated and does not exhibit symptoms of infection.

Digitalization and e-signatures

Remote work and the requirement to isolate during the pandemic has created the necessity to use digital means to issue various employment documents. In general, it is possible to use electronically signed documents in employment relationships.

However, the most important documents (e.g. an employment contract, a salary statement, a warning letter, or a notice of termination) should continue to be issued in writing and delivered in person. This is mainly because of the rigid legal requirements regarding delivery of such documents.

Although Czech law formally recognizes electronic delivery of important documents, this method of delivery is rarely used in practice. This is mainly because electronic delivery requires employees’ prior written consent, and participating employees must have their own recognized e-signature or data-box. However, most employees do not have their e-signature or data-box, which makes it almost impossible to validly deliver important documents to them. On the other hand, other important documents may be issued and delivered by electronic means.

Digitalization and employee monitoring

Modern technology also allows for steady communication between the remote worker and employers (i.e. managers, supervisors). Technology can also enable employers to monitor their workers (e.g. by using GPS when company cars are in use, and video technology and online supervision for remote workers), but in order to protect employee privacy Czech employers can only conduct such monitoring:

  • If the employer is given sufficient reason to conduct digital supervision;

  • If the employee is fully informed of the means and the scope of any monitoring;

  • If the monitoring proposal meets tests of necessity, appropriateness and proportionality.

For more information on how to implement remote work in the Czech Republic, contact your CMS client partner or local experts.