Like many other organisations in the Netherlands, there’s a good chance that the bulk of your staff have been working from home for almost two years now. And it’s highly likely that many of them will want to continue to work from home for some or all of the week, even after the coronavirus crisis has come to an end. Bearing this in mind, now is the time to make clear arrangements about working from home (WFH), whether in the form of a WFH scheme or a homeworking agreement. Or indeed a combination of the two.
A WFH scheme contains general guidelines on WFH that apply to all your staff, and could as such be incorporated either in your staff manual or in a set of rules for staff. A WFH scheme could state, for example, which members of staff are permitted to work from home, when they are allowed to work from home, and for how long.
Given that not every type of job is suited to working from home, you can specify in a WFH scheme which particular jobs or roles qualify for WFH. You can also set a maximum number of days during which staff may work from home (40% of their working hours, say), specify the size of an allowance towards the cost of office equipment and furniture, and state how you can ensure that a home office meets the relevant requirements.
Tax-free WFH allowance of up to €2 per day
In order to cover the extra costs incurred by staff working from home (e.g. coffee, toilet paper, electricity and water), you are entitled to pay your staff a tax-free WFH allowance of up to €2 a day or part of a day. A WFH allowance is not obligatory, however, unless it is included in a collective agreement to which your organisation is subject.
An employee is entitled to either a daily WFH allowance or a daily travel allowance, but not to both. This means that, if a particular employee spends part of the day working from home and the rest of the day in the office, as an employer you can then choose between paying him or her either a WFH allowance or a travel allowance.
Works Council entitled to approve aspects of a WFH scheme
It is important to involve the Works Council in good time when drawing up or amending a WFH scheme, as the Works Council has the right to either approve or express an opinion on a number of aspects of a WFH scheme.
The Works Council has the right to approve rules included in the WFH scheme on:
- working hours and rest periods (under Section 27 (1b) of the Works Council Act)
- working conditions (under Section 27 (1d) of the Works Council Act);
- work-related meetings (under Section 27 (1i) of the Works Council Act);
- the processing and protection of the personal data of company staff (under Section 27 (1k) of the Works Council Act);
- facilities designed or suitable for observing or monitoring the presence, behaviour or performance of company staff (under Section 27 (1l) of the Works Council Act).
If your employees continue to work from home on a long-term basis, you will probably need to invest in office furniture for them. This is an area in which the Works Council may be entitled to express an opinion (under Section 25 (1h or 1k) of the Works Council Act, for example).
In other words, if there are certain aspects that are dependent on approval from your Works Council or on which your Works Council is entitled to express an opinion, it’s important to inform your Works Council in good time.
You can make specific arrangements with individual members of staff about WFH and record them in a document known as a ‘homeworking agreement’. A homeworking agreement acts as a supplement to a contract of employment, which records the individual arrangements made between an employer and an employee.
Although you are not obliged as an employer to enter into homeworking agreements with individual employees, it is definitely worth doing so. This is because a homeworking agreement creates clarity, and thus prevents problems and misunderstandings. Without a written homeworking agreement, you may find yourself in dispute with your staff about issues such as contactability.
The contents of a typical homeworking agreement
A homeworking agreement sets out the rules for working from home. You may wish to include a reference in the agreement to the more general rules incorporated in a WFH scheme. A typical homeworking agreement contains provisions on its duration, on how your employee can be contacted when he or she is working from home, and also on the funding available for setting up a home office.
A homeworking agreement should include at least the following elements:
- the number of days that your employee will be working from home (stating the specific days concerned);
- a WFH allowance. The WFH allowance can be tailored to the number of days that the employee is scheduled to work from home, so that it is clear in advance how many days of the week the WFH allowance is intended to cover. If the employee occasionally comes into the office to work instead of working from home, the WFH allowance does not need to be immediately adjusted;
- arrangements on the type of work performed at home and your employee's contactability while working from home;
- the furnishing of the home office and the facilities and/or allowances available to your employee for this purpose;
- (data) security and privacy;
- illness and absence from work due to illness;
- the termination of the homeworking agreement (for example, whether the employer is entitled to withdraw permission for WFH).
In addition to the above aspects, you can of course include other, more specific arrangements in a homeworking agreement.
Need any help in drawing up a homeworking agreement or a WFH scheme?
If you have not yet made any agreements with your staff about WFH or if you have not recorded certain oral arrangements in writing, it’s now time to do so. If you have any questions or need help in drafting a WFH scheme or a homeworking agreement, please feel free to contact me or one of my colleagues from our employment law practice. We would be happy to assist you.