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New rules for remote working

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calendar 24 April 2022
globus Norway

As a result of the coronavirus and increased use of remote working, the Norwegian government has adopted changes to the rules for the home office. The changes are the first to be introduced since the rules on remote working entered into force back in 2002. Among other things, the changes include the appointment of a new control authority and changes to the rules on working time.

For the first time since 2002, the rules on work performed in the employee’s home have been changed. This is mainly due to the coronavirus, which resulted in an increased use and focus on remote working and working conditions at the home office. We are taking a closer look at the changes which enters into force on 1 July 2022 in the following:

Clarification on what is considered remote working

The rules on remote working are not applicable for “short-term” or “random” work from home. Now, the word “random” is changed to “sporadic”. The change of words means that the rules on remote working will not apply when work from home only happens from time to time. This could for example be if the employee occasionally works from home after leaving the office or a couple of hours during the day. In other words, the scope of the rules will be clarified but remain somewhat the same.

New exception to the requirement of written agreements

When the rules apply, companies must enter into a written agreement with each employee who works from home. This requirement will not change, but an exemption will be introduced; where remote work is recommended or imposed by Norwegian authorities, it is sufficient to provide the employees who work from home with written information on relevant questions (such as the extent of remote working and the working hours at the home office). Companies are also required to discuss the written information with the employee representative(s) before it is forwarded to the employees.

Focus on the psychosocial working environment

The current rules do not cover the psychosocial working environment, and instead only lists examples related to the physical working environment. Although the new rules now lists the psychosocial work environment as an example as well, this will not change companies’ responsibility. Companies have always been responsible to ensure both a healthy physical and psychosocial work environment. However, this new wording can lead to an increased focus from companies on the psychosocial working environment.

Stricter rules on working hours

Today, working from the home is subject to special rules on working time, not the Norwegian Working Environment Act. As a result, there is illustratively no rules on maximum daily working hours or a possibility for calculating average normal working hours. Due to the unclear line between work and free time when work is performed in the employee’s own home, the Norwegian Working Environment Act’s rules on working hours are now included. This means that the rules on daily working hours, calculation of average normal working hours, overtime and working nights and Sundays will also apply when working remotely, just as at the office.

LIA becomes the supervisory authority

As the rules are now, the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (LIA) cannot control or issue orders when companies fail to comply with the current rules. Although the LIA will not be given access to the employees’ homes, the LIA will however now have control authority over the companies’ compliance with the rules. For example, as to whether the required written agreement is in place, or whether companies uphold the duty to ensure a safe working environment.

IUNO’s opinion

The lockdown triggered both confusion and uncertainty relating to the rules when working from home, making it clear that changes were needed. However, despite the new changes, many practical questions will remain unanswered. One of the most important questions here is if companies must cover the cost of the equipment to the home office.

IUNO recommends that companies review their individual written agreements in terms of working hours, to ensure compliance when the new rules enter into force in July 2022. In terms of equipment, this is closely linked to both the physical and psychosocial working environment. As companies have a duty to ensure a safe working environment at the home office as well, the cost of equipment should be considered.

[Amendment of the Norwegian Regulation for Work Performed in the Employee’s Home of 18 March 2022]

For the first time since 2002, the rules on work performed in the employee’s home have been changed. This is mainly due to the coronavirus, which resulted in an increased use and focus on remote working and working conditions at the home office. We are taking a closer look at the changes which enters into force on 1 July 2022 in the following:

Clarification on what is considered remote working

The rules on remote working are not applicable for “short-term” or “random” work from home. Now, the word “random” is changed to “sporadic”. The change of words means that the rules on remote working will not apply when work from home only happens from time to time. This could for example be if the employee occasionally works from home after leaving the office or a couple of hours during the day. In other words, the scope of the rules will be clarified but remain somewhat the same.

New exception to the requirement of written agreements

When the rules apply, companies must enter into a written agreement with each employee who works from home. This requirement will not change, but an exemption will be introduced; where remote work is recommended or imposed by Norwegian authorities, it is sufficient to provide the employees who work from home with written information on relevant questions (such as the extent of remote working and the working hours at the home office). Companies are also required to discuss the written information with the employee representative(s) before it is forwarded to the employees.

Focus on the psychosocial working environment

The current rules do not cover the psychosocial working environment, and instead only lists examples related to the physical working environment. Although the new rules now lists the psychosocial work environment as an example as well, this will not change companies’ responsibility. Companies have always been responsible to ensure both a healthy physical and psychosocial work environment. However, this new wording can lead to an increased focus from companies on the psychosocial working environment.

Stricter rules on working hours

Today, working from the home is subject to special rules on working time, not the Norwegian Working Environment Act. As a result, there is illustratively no rules on maximum daily working hours or a possibility for calculating average normal working hours. Due to the unclear line between work and free time when work is performed in the employee’s own home, the Norwegian Working Environment Act’s rules on working hours are now included. This means that the rules on daily working hours, calculation of average normal working hours, overtime and working nights and Sundays will also apply when working remotely, just as at the office.

LIA becomes the supervisory authority

As the rules are now, the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (LIA) cannot control or issue orders when companies fail to comply with the current rules. Although the LIA will not be given access to the employees’ homes, the LIA will however now have control authority over the companies’ compliance with the rules. For example, as to whether the required written agreement is in place, or whether companies uphold the duty to ensure a safe working environment.

IUNO’s opinion

The lockdown triggered both confusion and uncertainty relating to the rules when working from home, making it clear that changes were needed. However, despite the new changes, many practical questions will remain unanswered. One of the most important questions here is if companies must cover the cost of the equipment to the home office.

IUNO recommends that companies review their individual written agreements in terms of working hours, to ensure compliance when the new rules enter into force in July 2022. In terms of equipment, this is closely linked to both the physical and psychosocial working environment. As companies have a duty to ensure a safe working environment at the home office as well, the cost of equipment should be considered.

[Amendment of the Norwegian Regulation for Work Performed in the Employee’s Home of 18 March 2022]

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

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Aurora Braut Bache

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