Telework agreement worked out well
Employers and Trade Unions have drawn a positive résumé of the first ever Social Partners agreement on the European level.
On 11 October 2006, the social partners jointly presented their report on the implementation of the agreement across Europe four years after its conclusion. 21 countries - including the non-EU countries Iceland and Norway - have provided input to the report. 16 of those countries have implemented the agreement by way of national social partnership agreements; Ireland and the UK, which do not have a national system of collective bargaining, have introduced guides and codes of good practice; Hungary, Portugal and the Czech Republic have transposed the code in their labour law, setting an example which the Polish social partners wish to follow.
The report covers the following issues:
- Definition and Scope of the agreement in the different implementations;
- the voluntary character of telework for both the worker and the employer concerned;
- employment conditions. Teleworkers benefit from the same rights as comparable workers at the employer’s premises;
- measures to be taken by the employer to ensure that data processed by the teleworker is subject to appropriate data protection standards and that the teleworker's privacy is respected;
- questions concerning work equipment, liability and costs, which must be clearly defined before starting telework;
- protection of the teleworker's occupational health and safety, for which the employer is responsible of the teleworker in accordance applicable legislation at EU and national levels, and with collective agreements;
- the teleworker's working time, which he manages and organises himself, within company rules and applying the workload and performance standards applicable to comparable workers at the employer’s premises;
- access to training and career development opportunities, which must be the same as for comparable workers at the employer's premises;
- teleworkers' collective rights, which must be the same as for workers at the employer’s premises. In particular, no obstacles must be put to communicating with workers’ representatives, and;
- implementation and follow-up.
The European framework agreement on telework was concluded by the European social partners (ETUC, UNICE, CEEP and UEAPME) in July 2002. It was the first time that such an agreement, which had to be implemented directly into member states' different industrial relations systems, was concluded in autonomous social partnership.
The agreement lays down working standards for people doing telework, defined as "a form of organising and/or performing work, using information technology, in the context of an employment contract/relationship, where work, which could also be performed at the employers premises, is carried out away from those premises on a
There are no exact figures on the amount of telework done in the EU, but estimates say that it amounts to 5 - 6% of all jobs in the EU, varying from 8% in the Netherlands and the UK to 2% in the Czech Republic and Hungary. This means that there are around 14 million teleworkers in Europe. There are indications that telework is a rapidly growing phenomenon.
Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimír Špidla called telework "a flexible form of work which can be reconciled with family and private life" and an "important element of flexicurity". He added that it was encouraging that a voluntary agreement among social partners, avoiding EU regulation, had worked out well.
ETUC General Secretary John Monks said: "The different experiences throughout Europe also underline that there is a need to clarify certain questions, given the fact that this is the first autonomous framework agreement to be implemented by the social partners themselves. These issues will be taken up in the framework of the European social partners’ work programme 2006 - 2008."
UNICE Secretary General Philippe de Buck said: "The report [...] is a very encouraging result showing companies’ interest in this flexible form of work."
UEAPME Secretary General Mr Hans-Werner Müller said that the report "shows that small companies equally take advantage of telework as one of the various flexible forms of work". He added: "We hope it will help to increase the use of telework in many sectors of the European economy."
CEEP Secretary General Mr Rainer Plassmann said: "The report shows ownership of the telework agreement by national social partners. This is the key precondition for the success of autonomous social dialogue. Moreover, the variety of tools available in terms of implementation was the catalyst for increasing the use of telework in some public services and administrations where this form of work was not so widespread before 2002."
European social partners are preparing more collective agreements on market analysis, on training and on the integration of at-risk populations into labour markets.