Spread of the coronavirus disease and introduction of quarantine on the territory of Ukraine make more and more companies switch to the remote work in order to prevent the spread of the disease and reduce infection rate.
A series of legislative changes was introduced, regulating remote work (work from home) generally and during the epidemic. But current legislation does not stipulate requirements relating to labor safety for work from home, that’s why there is question about which risks can arise during remote work (work from home) with a view to labor safety, what shall be taken into account by the employer, allowing such work schedule.
The Code of Labor Laws of Ukraine stipulates that the employer must ensure safe and harmless work conditions for the employees. Staying at home the employee is still performing his/her functional tasks and is at work, so he/she has the right to the same work conditions, as in the office. But how can you be sure that work conditions meet legal requirements and are safe for the employee?
According to the current labor regulations, the employer must from time to time hold attestation of work places in order to check availability of harmful and dangerous factors, which can negatively influence employees’ health, and taking into account the findings to take measures in order to eliminate dangerous influence of these factors or minimize it.
Generally, attestation of work places in many companies is associated with availability of production capacities, where risk of negative and dangerous factors is higher. Though in present conditions, when a lot of people work in offices, attestation of work places in the offices, equipped with computers, is also very important and includes analysis of compliance with sanitary and hygienic requirements, including:
- Correct planning of the work space, taking into account location of windows;
- Compliance with hygienic requirements when decorating the premises and using polymeric materials;
- Duly lighting of the premises and work place;
- Optimal micro climate parameters (temperature, air humidity, etc.);
- Duly ergonomic characteristics of the main elements of the work place;
- Availability of noise, electromagnetic, ultraviolet and infrared emission, electrostatic field between the employee and computer display, availability of dust, etc.
There is a question whether the employer must attest work place of the employee, taking into account all the above mentioned requirements if he/she switches to remote work (work from home), especially during epidemic and quarantine, when work from home seems safer than work in the office, and how to organize attestation, taking into account movement restrictions, introduced for the quarantine.
According to the Working from Home Guidelines and ILO Home Work Recommendation, the employee can work from home or place of residence or from any other place beyond the employer’s premises.
So the first step in the attestation of the employee’s work place is fixation of its location. In order to do this, the employee applies for installation of the work place at the corresponding address.
The next step includes creation of the committee, which will inspect the employee’s work place and analyze its compliance with labor safety requirements and availability of the conditions necessary to perform functional obligations. It shall be mentioned, that Working from Home Guidelines do not stipulate need to measure micro climate parameters (temperature, air humidity, etc.) or analysis of the materials, used to decorate the premises, the attention is focused on housing conditions of the employee. In reality, attestation of the employee’s work place can include checkup of the availability of electricity, water supply, sewage system, heating, telephone connection and high speed Internet, compliance of the work place with minimum labor and fire safety requirements, sanitary and epidemiological norms. Of course in case of epidemic or other force majeure circumstances, which require quick reaction of the employer and switch to remote work, measuring of microclimate parameters or availability of emissions or electrostatic field is not always possible, but examination of housing conditions, which are required for work, and absence of factors which can increase risk of infection during the epidemics, is obligatory.
In addition to the above mentioned, one of the key issues, which quite often concerns the employers, who plan to switch to remote work (work from home), is organization of examination of the employee’s housing conditions. If the work place of the employee is located in the other city, or when movement of people is restricted due to spread of epidemics (e.g. during quarantine), full scale examination of housing conditions with physical presence of the employer is unlikely. Taking into account the fact that the current legislation does not regulate how the employer must examine housing conditions of the employee, one of the options, which is actively used nowadays, is examination during a video conference.
According to the results of the employee’s housing conditions examination, the committee executes a certificate, mentioning availability of conditions for remote work (work from home), and their compliance with the labor safety requirements, fire safety and sanitary hygienic norms. Based on the employee’s application and certificate on examination of the housing conditions, the order is made to allow remote work (work from home).
What are the risks for the employer, if he/she does not adhere to the above mentioned procedure and does not examine housing conditions of the employee with a view to labor safety, fire safety and sanitary hygienic norms? Firstly, it shall be mentioned, that if the employer gets into an accident when performing the work, and investigation shows that it was caused by the violation of labor and fire safety requirements as well as sanitary hygienic norms at the employee’s work place (in our case, at home) and it is proven that this accident seriously harmed the employee’s health or even caused his/her death, the legislation stipulates administrative and criminal liability, including:
– Violation of legal norms and other regulations on labor safety, in particular requirement to create safe and harmless work conditions, shall be punishable by fine in the amount of twenty–forty non-taxable minimum incomes of people,
– Violation of legal norms and other regulations on labor safety by the enterprises’ officials, if this violation caused health problems, shall be punishable by fine amounting to two hundred non-taxable minimum incomes of people or correctional labor for a term up to 2 years or deprivation of liberty for the same term;
– Violation of legal norms and other regulations on labor safety by the enterprises’ official, if this violation caused death or other serious injuries, shall be punishable by the corrective labor for a term up to seven years, with deprivation of right to have certain positions or perform certain activities for a term up to two years or without it.
The other risk, which is sometimes ignored by the employer when switching to remote work (work from home), is the absence of certain work place for the remote work. In this case the employees can, at their own discretion, work from any place (home, cafe, park, etc.) But it is necessary to take into account the fact that the employer cannot fully guarantee safe and harmless work conditions, which must be ensured according to the legislation. If the employee, who works remotely, for example from the cafe, gets into an accident during the work hours, such case shall be treated as a production injury and after an investigation the employer can face administrative or criminal liability, if, as it was already mentioned, it is proven that the accident was caused by the violation of labor safety requirements and absence of corresponding safe and harmless work conditions.
In order to prevent such situations, before switching to remote work (work from home) it is necessary to specify the address of the work place in the application or other documents.
For sure the remote work (work from home) during epidemic enables the employer to create safer work conditions for the employees with a view to spread of the disease, but it also creates additional risks for the employer because of labor and fire safety requirements as well as sanitary hygienic norms, that is why execution of the correct documents for the remote work (work from home) with fixation of the examination results is an additional factor, which will allow the employer to protect himself/herself from the risks, connected with the accidents during work hours.