Labor Day: What Can I Demand From My Employee During Remote Work?

At LatinAmerican Post we review the current panorama of teleworking in Latin America in order to understand, within the framework of the law, what are the rights that a teleworker has in this region .

Person having a virtual meeting working from home

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LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez

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Leer en español: Día del Trabajo: ¿qué puedo exigir a mi empleador durante el teletrabajo?

Before March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization (WHO) granted Covid-19 the pandemic characteristic, the world, including Latin America , already had certain regulations in relation to teleworking or 'home office' , as it is known in English.

According to an article by Giovanni Reyes, Ph.D. of the University of Pittsburgh and professor and director of the Master's in Management at the Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, Latin America has work-at-home legislation that dates back more than 14 years in most countries, and more than 21 in the case of Chile.

Thus, according to the information provided by the expert in his document, by 2018, Argentina alone registered more than one million people whose permanent “office” was their home or any place from which they could carry out their work; However, although this number seemed important four years ago, the truth is that by 2022 it is totally obsolete.

According to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) , for two years, “with the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, and the confinement measures implemented to contain the health emergency, this type of work has increased significantly in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in the rest of the world”.

To argue this point, this organization explains that while in 2019 (just three years ago) the number of people who telecommuted in the region did not exceed 3% of wage earners, these numbers rose to 20% and even 30%. of the population that earns a salary on account of their work with a company.

Thus, during April, May and June 2020, there was a sudden increase of nearly 23 million people who had to adapt to teleworking as a way of earning a living in the midst of the health crisis derived from covid-19.

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How is the home office regulated in Latin America?

The ILO recalls that even a decade before the pandemic, many of the most important countries of the Latin American subcontinent already had clear regulations regarding teleworking, with most of them executing specific actions in the framework of the health crisis to improve the status of teleworkers in their respective territories.

Thus, countries such as Honduras, Bolivia and Ecuador made precise modifications to be able to strengthen the economy in the midst of the crisis situation they were going through, while in Colombia the pandemic was the perfect excuse to sanction a new Work at Home Law, in May 2021, sharing this idea with Paraguay, which in June of the same year did the corresponding thing.

As explained in the ILO report, all countries that have legislation, clear definitions of who is the teleworker and what are their functions in relation to teleworking are taken into account. Likewise, most of them record important data such as the duration of this form of work, costs that each one (employer and employee) must assume and the rights that employees have in matters such as health and safety from home.

Lastly, in several of the countries of the region, there is tacit talk of norms that regulate the organization of work, according to the shift, its frequency, workload, performance measurement, monitoring, and evaluation.

However, the ILO also mentioned some important aspects that appear little or simply do not appear in telework legislation in Latin America : “for example, the conditions in relation to privacy and data protection are only detailed in a few countries region of. Even less frequent is the regulation on the right to disconnect or on the effective implementation of teleworking and the enforcement procedures”.

What can a teleworker require for the correct functions of their work?

A report by the Network of Legal Assistance for Workers (ILAW) highlights some of the most important points to which a person who works remotely is entitled, which, of course, also become indirect obligations that the employer has to fulfill.

Among the most important issues, there are some rights that within the legal framework established or recommended by the ILO itself can be considered as "fundamental" in the midst of teleworking:

  1. Equal treatment: people who telecommute have exactly the same rights that cover those who perform their duties in the office established by the employer. One person or another cannot be discriminated against due to their work modality, and the marked differences can only be summarized in the types of contract agreed between both parties.
  2. It should not be something that is imposed, but rather a mutual agreement between the employee and the employer so that the former feels comfortable with the decision made, while the latter is assured that the work will be carried out responsibly. Likewise, there should be a principle of reversibility, which guarantees the worker the right to return to the office if they so wish. This also limits the creation of abusive contracts in which the 'home office' becomes the perfect excuse to subcontract employees as independent.
  3. Of course, employees also have the right to know exactly how long they have to work (working day) , as well as the right to disconnect. This prevents the worker from falling into fatigue due to abusive conditions of his employer.

Finally, other points to which an employee is entitled are that their employer assumes maintenance, equipment, and connectivity costs; as well as health and safety. You can and should also demand that your rights to privacy, intimacy, and the protection of your personal data be respected.

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