Teleworkers get new employment safeguards

A deal between major European employers and trade unions lays the groundwork for working conditions for all European teleworkers

Four and a half million teleworkers in the European Union will have greater security, while keeping their flexibility, as a result of a consultation process between European employers and trade unions.

The agreement, which was signed in Brussels and will be implemented within three years, affects employees of multinationals, but is also expected to form a general framework at European level for all teleworkers' working conditions, with the backing of the EC. Anna Diamantopoulou, Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, said: "This is a landmark deal. Not only will this initiative benefit both workers and businesses, but it is the first European agreement to be implemented by the social partners themselves."

Seven key areas are highlighted in the agreement where details of teleworking need to be taken into account. The areas are: data protection; privacy; equipment; health and safety; organisation of work, training and collective rights issues.

The European Union definitions of teleworking are:

  • home-based employed teleworkers, most of whom work alternately at home and on the employer's premises;
  • self-employed teleworkers who normally work from home;
  • mobile workers who spend at least ten hours per week away from home or their main place of work, for example on business trips, travelling or on customers' premises, during which time they use online computer connections;
  • casual workers who could fall under the first group (home-based), but spend less than ten hours per week teleworking from home.

The teleworking agreement is designed to extend the same protections to teleworkers as to employees based on employers' premises. The Commission points to several companies curently adopting teleworking models proposed by trade unions, including British Gas and IBM.

Research shows that teleworking in the UK is up 70 percent from five years ago. International comparisons show that teleworking in the UK is just above the average for ten EU countries covered by a recent survey. Germany and France have the smallest proportion of employed people working as teleworkers, while Finland has the highest proportion.

See the ZDNet UK Teleworking Poll results.

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