Quo Vadis home office?

By July 7, 2021 No Comments

The pandemic has forced employers and employees to be flexible in terms of how and where work should be performed. In some professions, home office has proven to be efficient, in others it has reduced efficiency and performance indicators. At companies where recent months have shown that it is possible to work from home with the same or close to the same indicators as in an office environment, the question may be: what next?

Home office is an atypical employment relationship that is not regulated in Hungarian labour law. Nonetheless, the general rules, in particular the requirement to ensure a healthy and safe working environment, shall apply to it as well.

It is essential that the employee is not entitled to home office but it must be agreed upon by the parties. This can take place in the employment agreement; in an addendum to the agreement; in a separate agreement; or in a collective agreement.

Home office implicates a number of issues. These include the use of equipment and the monitoring of work, data protection issues or specifying fixed and flexible working hours. It is advisable for the parties to agree on these key points as well or at least the employer should lay down the principles of home office in an internal policy.

You can imagine situations when the schedule suddenly needs to be changed: the employee must do some errands near the office after work and would prefer to go to work on a home office day, or the top client initiates a meeting in the office and the employer must call in the key account manager from home. It is therefore also worth clarifying these possibilities between the parties at the beginning and the employer should organise the resources and the number of work stations accordingly.

Unless agreed otherwise, home office remains an option to agree on but not a right of the employee. Therefore, if there is a demand from the employee to work from home, they must notify the employer in due time and the employer decides about the request at his own discretion. On the other hand, the employer may decide to assign the employee to home office at any time provided that the conditions for working at home are met.

As mentioned in the beginning, the concept of home office is not recognised in the Labour Code. It does, however, regulate teleworking, which at first sight seems to be the same but these are two different types of work, and it is therefore appropriate to distinguish them as follows:

Home office Teleworking
Type of agreement: shall not necessarily be included in the employment contract must be agreed in the employment contract
Place of work: at the employee’s discretion, anywhere (home, holiday home, beach) it must be defined in the labour contract
Schedule: by agreement of the parties, or, if no agreement is made, at the employer’s discretion regular and usually permanently outside the employer’s premises
Working hours: according to the employment contract or other agreement: fully flexible, partly flexible, fully fixed unless otherwise agreed, it is flexible
Right of control: not regulated by law, it shall be regulated by the employer in advance observing privacy rights specific rules set out in the Labour Code apply

The above classification is important because the tax-free allowance, as explained in our December article, is currently available for teleworking only. If the employee is merely doing home office, any incentive given by the employer with regard to that will qualify as taxable fringe benefit.

Since home office is a brand-new legal instrument, we believe the parties should agree on all foreseeable issues in advance and in detail, because judicial practice and legislation will likely be able to provide guidance to the law-abiding public years from now.