As early as 7 April this year, new regulations on remote working will come into force. According to these, work can be performed wholly or partly at a location agreed between the employee and the employer. Most often, employees carry out work from their place of residence, but sometimes they take advantage of the increasingly popular solution of workation and carry out remote work also from abroad. One of the important issues in the context of remote working, whether carried out at home or abroad, is the employer’s obligations and the handling of any accident to the employee while working remotely.
Remote working accident
Under the Labour Law, an accident at work is defined as a sudden event caused by an external cause resulting in injury or death, which occurred in connection with work:
- during or in connection with the performance by the employee of his/her usual activities or instructions from his/her superiors;
- during or in connection with the employee’s performance of activities for the employer, even without instruction;
- while the employee is at the employer’s disposal on the way between the employer’s premises and the place of performance of the duty arising from the employment relationship.
The labour legislation indicates that in the event of an accident at work, the employer is obliged to take the necessary measures to eliminate or reduce the risk, provide first aid to the injured persons and determine, in the prescribed manner, the circumstances and causes of the accident and apply appropriate measures to prevent similar accidents.
The new regulations on remote working, which are about to enter into force, do not redefine the concept of an accident at work or the employer’s obligations. When considering what a remote working accident is, it is therefore necessary to refer to the regulation previously in force and apply it to remote working.
The new Article 6731 § 9 of the Labour Code indicates that, in the event of a remote work accident, Article 234 § 1 of the Labour Code and the provisions issued pursuant to Article 237 § 1(1) and (2) of the Labour Code shall apply accordingly. The first of the above-mentioned articles refers to the employer’s obligations and the post-accident procedure, while the second refers to the regulated details of the post-accident procedure.
Appropriate application of the provisions means, as a rule, referring the provisions directly to a given state of facts or with certain modifications justified by the specificity of a given state of facts. In some cases, it may turn out that the provisions or parts of them are not applicable at all to a given factual situation.
Employer’s obligations and procedure in the event of a remote working accident
If an employee suffers an accident at a remote work site, the employer should undertake an investigation on general principles and then qualify the incident based on the findings of the post-accident team.
According to the regulations to come into force on 7 April this year, the inspection of the accident site shall be carried out after the remote working accident has been reported, at a time agreed upon by the employee or his household member, in case the employee is unable to agree on such a time due to his health condition, and the members of the accident team. The accident team may refrain from inspecting the site of the remote working accident if it considers that the circumstances and causes of the accident are not in doubt.
Thus, if the employee or his or her household member refuses to set a date for the inspection or if the date is far off, the accident team’s ability to establish the circumstances of the accident is significantly limited. In the case of remote working, it should also be taken into account that the employer has no authority at the place where the remote work is carried out. It is therefore difficult, for example, to talk about securing the accident scene.
The accident team will be faced with the challenge of properly determining the circumstances of the incident and classifying it as an accident at work or not. However, taking into account the constraints arising both from the provisions on remote working and the employer’s actual ability to react quickly to an accident of a person working sometimes several hundred kilometres from the employer’s premises, the qualification of the incident as an accident at work will require special attention from employers.
An even more difficult situation will be the implementation of obligations and the determination of the circumstances of the accident in the case of an employee working remotely abroad. The provisions of the Labour Code do not distinguish specific regulations in relation to an accident at work abroad – the employer still has the obligations indicated above. The distance from the location of the remote work where the accident occurs will be an additional constraint on the ability to establish the actual course of events.
Nevertheless, the key aspect to be taken into account is whether the employee in question was, at the time of the accident, carrying out work duties on behalf of and in the interests of the employer. This is because it cannot be considered, for example, that cleaning the flat or hanging laundry, during which the employee fell and sustained an injury, are carried out in the interest of the employer and on its instructions. On the other hand, if the circumstances presented by the employee and the findings of the accident team do not raise any doubts as to the circumstances of the incident and its connection with work activities, there are no obstacles to the incident being recognised by the employer as an accident at work.
Employee declarations regarding remote working
It should also be borne in mind that certain obligations are also incumbent on the employee who will be performing the remote work. Firstly, the employee, for his or her part, is obliged to always agree with the employer on the address where the remote work is performed.
In addition, irrespective of the location from which the work duties are performed, the employee shall submit a declaration that he/she has the technical and premises conditions to perform the remote work and that the location where he/she will perform the remote work is adequate for the tasks to be performed and complies with all health and safety regulations and rules. The employee, on the basis of the risk assessment provided by the employer and the health and safety information provided, should be able to assess whether he or she will be able to fulfil the requirements necessary to carry out work in this form in accordance with health and safety rules.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the location of the remote work has to be agreed between the employee and the employer, which thus leaves the employer with some influence on where his employees are and gives him to some extent the possibility to assess the place where the remote work is to be carried out. It is important to note that the employer is not obliged to agree to the employee’s indicated place of remote work every time. The employer is therefore not without any influence on where the employee performs the remote work.
In conclusion, it should be noted that, due to the nature of remote working, it will be important for employees and employers to cooperate in the investigation and qualification of certain events as an accident at work.