Legal Guide COVID-19: Home Office (Czech Republic)

23 Mar 2020

Last update on 23 March 2020, 10:15

In connection with the coronavirus outbreak, the Czech Government recommends that employers encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible. Below is a short summary of the key legal aspects of working from a home office.

1. Can employer order employees to work from home? Can home office be ordered to a quarantined employee?

A home office arrangement is always a consensual relationship. The employee must agree to such arrangement.

A quarantined employee is obliged to stay at home or another designated place. Generally, if the employee is under quarantine, he is entitled to a salary reimbursement and the employer is obliged to excuse his absence from work, similarly as if the employee was on a sick leave. However, if the employee is capable of working and the nature of the work allows it, the employer and the employee can agree on a home office arrangement. In such case the employee will receive a regular salary.

2. What if an employee does not agree with home office and the employer cannot assign work to the employee at the workplace?

In such case this would be considered “obstacles to work” on the part of the employer. The employee would not work (i.e. be on a “garden leave”) but will be entitled to full salary compensation.

3. Does the employer bear the costs related to the home office?

The employer bears all costs and expenses incurred in connection with employees working at home. In practice, most employees working from home usually only need their mobile phone, laptop and internet connection. It is advisable to agree with the employee what additional costs (if any) will be covered by the employer.

4. Is the employer responsible for the working conditions of an employee working from home?

Yes, the employer must ensure safe working conditions even for employees working from their home office and remains legally responsible for work health & safety as well as for work-related injuries. It can do so by setting the rules and requirement for the home office environment (e.g. requirement on ergonomical office chair, sufficient light etc.). The employer should be able to check that the health & safety conditions are in place, which means that the agreement should also regulate the employer’s right to access the employee premises. Needless to say, the practical implementation and enforcement of these rules presents a major challenge for employers. At the same time, an employee working from home may be in a difficult position to prove that he incurred an injury in connection with performing work tasks.

5. Are there any specific rules in terms of work equipment?

There are no specific rules. The employer remains responsible for the provision of work equipment to its employees and bears the costs. For example, if the employees do not have laptops and work on desktop PCs at the workplace, the employer would have to provide them with laptops if he wants the employees to work from their home office (unless they agree on some other arrangement, such as that the employee will use his personal devices and receive appropriate compensation).

Typically, one of the requirement for a home office to be included in the agreement with the employee would be a requirement that the employee has a high speed internet connection at home.

6. Can an employee work from a home office abroad and what are the risks?

It is possible in principle (the agreement would have to specify the place of work); the implementation and enforcement by the employer of the home office rules (health & safety, controls) would in such case, however, be extremely difficult if not impossible. In this sense, the employer takes a higher risk.

Further aspects to be considered are registration to social security system and health insurance. From a long-term perspective, they should also address payment of taxes and the possible risk of double taxation. A long home office arrangement abroad may also result in the applicability of certain labor law rules (in particular those favorable to the employee) applicable in the country where the employee resides and works.

Finally, remote home working may complicate official communication with the employee. Czech Labor Code requires that certain important documents are always primarily delivered (handed over) in person. This would be the case, for example, of a termination notice or a salary measure.

7. Is the employer entitled to check the homeworking employee’s work performance? 

Yes, the employer is entitled to check whether the employees dedicates working hours to the performance of work tasks while he works from home.  At the same time, the employer may only use such tools and  mechanism which are appropriate and proportionate to the mentioned objective and should transparently inform the employees in advance about the use of such control tools (for example in its Privacy Policy). Measures such as regular monitoring of the employee’s emails, requiring employees to have webcams on at all times and colleting the footage thereof, screen capturing or (in the extreme) implementing technologies which for recording employees’ keystrokes or mouth movement, in the extreme, would certainly be excessive, unduly interfering with the employee’s privacy. Logging of applications used (and how long they were used for), too, could be deemed excessive, so any such monitoring measure should be used prudently and only exceptionally, and the employer would have to able to justify such measure. Generally, the relevant rules for employee monitoring set by Section 316 of the Labor Code should be observed.

Information contained herein does not represent legal advise and may not be relied upon without further consultation with a lawyer.