23 junio 2020

The Revolution of Telework Has Come to Stay

With this Pandemic, telework and remote working have come to stay for good among the new models of industrial relations.

Article by Julián A. de Diego published in El Cronista on June 23, 2020

More than 56% of active employees are working from home thanks to technology. This rate has tripled during coronavirus lockdown, and will surely increase even more.

We must all achieve literacy, and now it is crucial to acquire computer literacy, whether as digital natives or ICT immigrants.

Today the digital gap between digital literates and illiterates may be one of the reasons of exclusion from the labor market.

Most employees who are working remotely due to lockdown (brilliant white-collar workers) will not be able to return to their workplaces, whether in whole or in part, because as a result of the reorganization of production and services, and the pressing need to lower costs, teleworking will significantly help boost corporate productivity and competitiveness.

Many companies are already offering impersonal office spaces where there are available cubicles without assigned specific desks for employees to slowly go back to the workplace; they can use any available space without establishing any specific place or hierarchical order.

The Covid-19 outbreak has accelerated an existing but gradual trend. Today all active employees who work from home are using their multi-functional cellphones only, and sometimes a notebook or PC, or both.

Telematic devices are essential; they offer connectivity and communication. Thanks to apps all the services that used to be provided from employers’ facilities are gradually being offered online, day after day new services are being added, something that was unimaginable before.

For remote work to become a new source of employment is indispensable to have legislation that promotes and encourages it, and does not hinder this process with dogmatic opinions and ideologies, and instead offers pragmatic solutions boosting this initiative that is the most important source of employment that has emerged this century.

Legal reforms are menaced by the destructive shadow of paranoid fear of those who believe in a conspiracy behind a disruptive and successful model.

Remember that ILO C177 about Home Work, which has supra-legal status, is currently in force in Argentina, and the Employment Contract Act is already giving answers to the enigmas posed by telework.

There are issues involving the change of working space from the office to employee’s home (Section 6 of the Employment Contract Act) or a nearby place, an Internet café, an Internet-access convenience store, co-working hubs, the staircase of a building or a bench in a park.

And with this transformation, almost all labor and employment law aspects of individual rights should change as well; for instance, domestic accidents have always been an issue unrelated to work now they can be considered occupational accidents. The same can be said about rest breaks: home was the symbol of family life and relax, now it is part of the productive activity.

The reimbursement of expenses incurred by employees, which has been intensely debated at Congress, is already regulated under Section 76 of the Employment Contract Act, establishing that employees must be reimbursed for all the expenses arising out of the performance of their job and for any damages caused to their property because of their work. Internet access, electricity, telematics devices and accessories are included as employers’ obligations under the law.

Employees keep the same duties they used to have at their employers’ facilities but now at home or at the place they choose. They must observe any preventative measures to protect their health and adapt to follow their employers’ orders and instructions, organization schemes, working hours and rest breaks designed by employers, as well as hygiene and safety standards, plus the use of protective equipment, such as computer screen filters.

Data privacy, non-discrimination, union rights, contract novation, the reasonable exercise of the right to change working conditions (jus variandi), working hours, rest breaks, employee compensation are all issues that are regulated under the law and relevant regulations, in addition to collective bargaining agreements that already deal with remote work.

The new AI opportunities on the horizon, teleworkers’ interconnectivity, and operational interaction channels for team members are partially replacing face-to-face activity. Group meetings are now being transformed into videoconferencing sessions.

Now the software used by teleworkers includes quality follow-up, productivity and result functions that automatically organize and measure their activity, progress and outcome.

It is worth mentioning that freelancers, independent contractors, entrepreneurs, and developers work remotely too, offering their professional services. In this case, they should be governed by contracts in accordance with the Civil and Commercial Code of Argentina.

Technological breakthroughs, such as telework, are also the consequence of a change in customers’ habits; they used to go shopping as a recreational activity, and now order everything online and get it delivered at home. Telework is just one of the exponential technologies that will change our lifestyle on a daily basis.

Por Julián A. de Diego
Por Julián A. de Diego

Fundador y Titular del estudio “de Diego & Asociados”. Abogado, Doctor en Ciencias Jurídicas.

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