As there is no harm that comes for good, the pandemic has revealed the enormous advantages of expanded teleworking for companies, workers and the economy itself. Companies reduce rental costs with usual improvements in productivity and workers save travel time with better self-organization of hours that tends to facilitate family reconciliation. On a macroeconomic level, remote work facilitates energy savings and the fight against climate change and is an opportunity to revitalize rural areas and improve the employability of people with reduced mobility. Despite its risks, such as social isolation, cybersecurity problems or uncontrolled hours at home, the advantages of teleworking seem to outweigh its costs, especially in mixed formulas, combined with face-to-face work.
The transition from this conjunctural expansion of teleworking to its structural consolidation, in accelerated processes of digitalization of companies, is being developed, however, with regulations that discourage this way of working. Law 10/2021, introduced hastily in the midst of the pandemic, although not applied during it, regulates remote work with enormous formalism and rigidity for those workers who exceed 30%, from a quarterly reference, while completely deregulating the developed below this threshold. It is evident that the rule encourages occasional teleworking formulas always below the (discretionary) threshold of 30%, deregulated, as opposed to broader or longer-lasting ones, subject to an individual agreement with a broad minimum content, unchangeable without agreement between the parties. It is, therefore, inefficient legislation that puts a brake on the digital transition accelerated by the pandemic. And, in addition, it runs the risk of turning teleworking, through more flexible collective bargaining, into a new way of reconciling, increasing gender segregation.
It is necessary to suppress the current legislation and recover the common regulation of teleworking, without distinction of thresholds, and only require this rigid formalism in full-time remote jobs. We need a simple regulation, which once again recognizes the freedom of teleworking agreement between company and worker under the principles of voluntariness, non-discrimination, provision of technological means and compensation of net expenses derived from this way of working, within the framework of what is established by collective bargaining or, failing that, the company’s unilateral protocols.
The regulation should neither encourage nor discourage this way of working, but rather create the best possible conditions for its business implementation when this is viable, efficient and convenient for the interests of the company and the workers. Therefore, it is essential to recover legal neutrality in teleworking.
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