Victory for Companies over Employees: One Sentence Changed the Work-from-Home Law

The Czech government’s proposed amendment to the labor code regarding work-from-home expenses has undergone a significant change. Initially, the legislation required employers to reimburse employees for increased costs associated with remote work. However, a new provision has been introduced, making such reimbursement voluntary rather than mandatory. This amendment has sparked debate among stakeholders.

Earlier this year, Minister Marian Jurečka (KDU-ČSL) announced an agreement reached by the tripartite committee, stating that every individual working from home would be entitled to a minimum compensation of 2.80 Czech korunas per hour. However, the latest version of the proposed amendment introduces a paragraph that treats compensation for home office expenses as an optional provision, not an obligation.

According to the new provision, employers and employees can agree in writing that employees are not entitled to reimbursement for expenses incurred while working remotely. This addition to the amendment’s text has raised concerns among labor unions, as it contradicts the basic principle of the labor code that dependent work should be carried out at the employer’s expense.

The change in the legislation emerged after the public consultation process on the draft law. Available documents indicate that the Legislative Council of the Government proposed the amendment, and the government approved it on the condition that the Ministry of Labor incorporates the change.

Trade union representatives, such as Vít Samek, Deputy Chairman of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, expressed disappointment, stating that the amendment deviated from the initial agreement. Some politicians and experts argue that the change provides flexibility, allowing employers and employees to negotiate actual costs or forgo reimbursement altogether.

While there are differing opinions among politicians, with some considering the change favorable for both employees and employers, others see it as an additional burden on employers. The bill will now proceed to the Chamber of Deputies for further discussion and potential modifications.

Representatives of business organizations, such as Markéta Schormová, Chairwoman of the Employment Section at the Czech Chamber of Commerce, welcome the amendment as a victory for common sense. They emphasize that clarification regarding the term “in advance” in the added paragraph may require employers to establish new agreements with employees regarding work-from-home arrangements.

The debate revolves around distinguishing between mandatory and voluntary work-from-home situations. If remote work is mandated, there is an agreement that expenses should be covered. However, when employees request work-from-home arrangements, it is seen as an expression of goodwill from the employer, and additional costs for utilities are deemed unnecessary.

The amendment aims to strike a balance between the interests of employers and employees while implementing the European directive. The outcome of the discussions in the Chamber of Deputies will determine the final form of the law.