Hopes for a vote before Parliament closes
The debate on the bill regarding the regulation of teleworking began today in the Labor Committee of the Parliament, with efforts being intensified so that the bill can be brought to the Plenary for a vote before July 13, the last day before the Parliament closes for the summer period and can be used by as many workers and as many organizations and businesses as possible.
It is noted that the bill in question is considered very important for the utilization of technology, the which will offer the possibility for greater flexibility at work.
It is clarified that the specific bill being discussed in the Parliament concerns only the private sector, while as it was mentioned during the session of the competent Committee of the Parliament today, a framework has been created for the public sector by the Ministry of Finance, which will also be discussed in the Council of Ministers at in the near future.
Based on the proposed bill, the rights and obligations of employers and employees when they agree to use telework are regulated such as working hours, job security and satisfaction, health and safety, opportunities for professional development, training, retraining, etc.
For the purpose of more effective application of the law, relevant provisions have been included in the bill, which define in detail the powers and duties of inspectors and at the same time determine the penalties for offenders, so that they become deterrents.
The bill regulates the rights and obligations of employers and employees such as, among others, the use of telework on a voluntary basis after an agreement between employer and employee, the mandatory use of telework in extremely extraordinary cases, which are specified in the bill, the prohibition of discrimination against of teleworkers, the employer's obligation in relation to the cost of telework, the regulation of the right to disconnect after the end of working hours, the employer informing the employee in advance about individual telework issues such as teleworking time limits, support procedures, usage restrictions equipment, risks from the use of telework, personal data protection, etc., as well as occupational safety, through which the use of telework should not affect existing employee rights, such as salary, working hours, etc.< /p>
Also, issues of safety and health of teleworkers are regulated, the provision of opportunities for professional advancement, training/retraining for teleworkers, the powers and duties of the inspectors responsible for the implementation of the law, as well as penalties of up to 10,000 euros for violators.
The discussion before the Labor Committee took place in the presence of the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance, Yiannis Panagiotou, who said that through the bill, as it has been formulated, there are specific provisions for the utilization of the equipment, for the working hours, for the supervision in relation to the observance of the hours, for the cost, which entails the use of the home space for the needs of the work, noting that this gives the possibility to make better use of teleworking in a regulated way.
In his statements, on the sidelines of the session, Mr. Panagiotou expressed his appreciation that through good cooperation “the debate can develop quickly and we can manage – before the Parliament closes for the summer season – to bring the bill to the fore of the Plenary, so that this issue can be regulated, so that it can be used by as many workers as possible and as many organizations and businesses as possible”.
Asked if teleworkers will receive an allowance for the use of their home, the Minister of Labor referred to a provision of n/s, which corresponds to this parameter, through a decree that will be issued by the Minister of Labor at a later stage.
Indicatively, he mentioned that the corresponding amount paid in Greece has been determined at 28 euros per month, which is configured according to the days an employee will telework.
When asked if there is a risk of desocialization of people, Mr. Panagiotou said that “so that this kind of problematic situation does not arise, it is important that all possibilities are used in a balanced way, which at the end of the day will give the possibility for models, which are complex and hybrid”.
He referred to discussions he had with the Equality Commissioner, who, as he said, “has a special concern about the possibility of using telework, mainly by women, in a way that will work against their socialization and their essential presence in the workplace”.
According to Mr. Panagiotou, “taking into account these aspects, we need to take advantage of the possibilities provided by technology and now by legislation, when the law will be passed, in a functional, balanced and practical way”.
Answering the question of whether this measure will reduce traffic on the roads, he said that “there will be a financial benefit both for the workers, who will not have to move, when they take advantage of telework, therefore paying fuel costs, there will be lower costs for the organizations and businesses, which will utilize smaller facilities and by extension it will affect the traffic on the roads, since through the use of telework fewer employees will need to move especially during peak hours”.
To another question about whether a platform will be created, which will check whether the employee is in front of his computer or not, the Minister of Labor replied that an important parameter of the bill is the provision of the right to disconnection, which means that when her hours once one's work is done, they can be disconnected from the technological tool and the online platform through which they are connected, something that is also true in physical presence work, where when someone is studying, they leave their desk and go in his house”.
“Obviously,” he added, “for reasons related to the urgency of the matter, someone contacting an executive in their business or organization can do so in the same way as before telecommuting was introduced into our lives. So what is regulated is the right to disconnect from the electronic platform through which you work in real time collaborating with your boss or employer”.
During the discussion in the Labor Committee, the Representative of the Legal Service, Eleni Kouzoupi, said that the bill was initially brought before the Service twice for legal technical control and then after consultation with the social partners, all parameters have been examined.
He assured that the Legal Service will be at the disposal of the Parliament for further analysis and explanation of the bill.
The representative of the Mental Health Services, Semeli Vyzakou, responded to a question raised in a previous session, and related to whether people, who may not themselves have an internal control over the level of their work, that is, want to steal from their hours and possibly going into a burnout, whether that could be regulated in this bill.
According to Mrs. Vyzakou, all the clauses of the bill have been studied, with the Mental Health Services considering that this part is covered by the said bill.
There is an important gap recorded by all the representatives of organizations for the fact that there is no regulation in the bill in question, for the public and semi-public sector.
However, as mentioned, the Ministry of Finance is working on proposals, the which will also cover the public sector, while a representative from the Ministry of Finance has been invited to the next session.
The representatives of the trade union organizations PEO, SEK, DEOK, PASYDY, ASDYK, POASO and the Pan-Cypriot Syntechnia ISOTITA were in favor of the bill, while they emphasized in their majority that the regulation should also be applied to the wider public sector.
< p class="text-paragraph">For its part, the employers' organizations OEB, KEBE and POVEK suggested that before the Parliament proceeds to pass the legislation, they should wait to see the content of the European directive, which will be voted on on July 10.
The Chairman of the Labor Committee, Andreas Kavkalias, clarified that the absence of regulation in the bill in question for the public and semi-public sector “should not be a reason not to proceed to discuss the bill as it has been tabled before us, even if it is not includes regulatory provisions for the public sector”.
DISY MP, Onoufrios Koulas, stated that the “goal should be balanced arrangements so that there is no abuse on the part of employers, nor on the part of employees”, to add that “the ultimate goal should be to expand the institution and to make use of this modern form of employment for the benefit of both workers and businesses, so that it is for the benefit of the entire economy”.
EDEK MP, Andreas Apostolou, said that the members of the Committee have been asked to clarify the way in which employees will be compensated by the employer for the cost of telework, while he added that the conditions and method of disconnection must be clarified.
The MP of DIPA, Marinos Mousioutas, said that this is a new model, which the Parliament is trying to legislate, recalling that this model has helped Cyprus, but also other states during the pandemic, so that to be able to continue their work as far as they could.