There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘new normal’ but what about the new rights such radical changes in the modern workplace should bring about?
Spurred on by the rise of teleworking amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Workers’ Union has put forward a number of proposals to ensure remote workers aren’t burdened with costs their employers would have otherwise had to pay.
This would include part of workers’ rent, electricity bills, installation costs for telephone lines, WiFi, VPNs and air conditioning.
They’re also proposing that employers carry out home workspace risk assessments and that designated home workspaces are recognised as an extension of the workplace in terms of injuries or illnesses suffered there.
In practice, this would mean that injuries suffered while sitting at a desk designated as a workspace would classify as a workplace injury, but injuries suffered when, for example, in the bathroom wouldn’t.
The GWU is also insisting that monitoring of staff by employers should never be abusive or intrusive and that the right to disconnect from work-related calls, emails, and messages should be enshrined into law.
“If you go to work, your employer provides you with A/C, water and electricity, a desk, a chair, WiFI and a VPN, and employees shouldn’t be penalised with these costs when they’re working from home,” GWU secretary general Josef Bugeja told Lovin Malta.
“Part of employees’ homes should be designated as an extension of the workplace, and all work conditions will apply there.”
He noted that current Maltese legislation on teleworking is quite basic, most recently updated in 2008. However, the law does actually specify that the employer is responsible for providing, installing and maintaining the necessary telework equipment unless otherwise agreed upon by both parties in writing.
Last November, Minister Carmelo Abela confirmed the government is working on a new law to regulate remote working, which would include a right to disconnect. Meanwhile, the European Parliament recently approved a report penned by Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba which urges the EU to issue a right to disconnect directive to member states.