articles | 13 December 2023 | George Z. Georgiou & Associates LLC

Regulating Remote Work in Cyprus

The House of Representatives has approved the long-awaited Framework Regulating Remote Working Law of 2023 (the “Law”) which has come into effect 01/12/2023.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, remote working arrangements have become increasingly common globally as well as in Cyprus. In response to the need to regulate the apparent surge in remote work, the Law includes provisions regulating teleworking and sets out both the employers’ duties and the employees’ rights.

The Law defines “telework” as remote work which could be provided either from the employer's establishments or from a workplace outside the employer's establishments, by technological means. The Law applies to all private sector employment relationships, irrespective of the type of employment and hours of remote work.

Overview

According to the Law remote work can be implemented on a voluntary basis if an agreement is reached between employer and employee either at the commencement of employment, through a subsequent amendment of the employment contract or through a collective agreement. Mandatory remote work can be imposed only for public health reasons or if requested by the employee if there is a risk to their health.

The Law introduces, among others, the following main safeguards:

  • Prohibition of discriminatory treatment of employees working remotely;
  • Obligation of employer to cover any costs incurred by the employee due to remote work and give technical support;
  • Information rights of employees;
  • Employees right to disconnect;
  • Risk assessment and health and safety obligations as well as DPIA requirements.

Employer Duties/Responsibilities

  1. Costs

Employers will be responsible for covering all costs associated with remote work including cost for the equipment (unless it is agreed to use the employer’s equipment), telecommunications, use of home working space and repair and/or maintenance of any damage to any equipment or replacement if needed. Employers are also responsible to provide technical support.

A minimum monthly amount payable by employers will be determined by the Council of Ministers following a decree which is expected to be issued soon and will be calculated pro rata taking into consideration the frequency and duration of remote work, if equipment will be provided etc.

It is important to note that the Law clarifies that any costs paid by the employers will not be seen as remuneration but as a deductible expense on which no social insurance or tax will be paid.

2. Health & Safety

The Law imposes strict obligations on employers aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of affected employees.

In addition to the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Law of 1996, employers must conduct a written evaluation of the risks associated with remote work and put in place the necessary protective measures, while providing any training required to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

3. Transparent Working Conditions

In general, an employer is obliged to provide an employee with specific written information in accordance with the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Law of 2023, about the terms applicable to the employment relationship. The Law requires additional written information to be provided regarding telework, within eight (8) days from the date of commencement of such arrangement, regarding the following:

a) The right of the employee to disconnect;

b) An analysis of the costs borne by the employer;

c) The equipment which is necessary for the provision of services on a remote basis;

d) The procedures which have been put in place for the technical support, maintenance and repair of the equipment;

e) Any restrictions imposed on the use of the equipment and the corresponding penalties for breaching them;

f) Any agreements regarding remote readiness, it’s time limits and timeframes for responsiveness of the remote worker;

g) An evaluation of the risks associated with remote work and the measures adopted by the employer for their prevention based on the risk assessment;

h) The responsibility of both parties to protect any personal and/or professional data and relevant procedure to comply with such obligation;

i) The supervisor from whom the remote worker will receive instructions.

Any information which does not have to be personalised and addressed to specific employees, can be communicated to relevant staff through internal policies of the employer.

Employee Rights

1. Employment status

A remote work agreement cannot affect the employment status of an employee. It only affects the way the work is performed. Therefore, remote work can be performed in cases of full-time, part time or other forms of employment and can be exclusively remote or in combination with office work.

To this end, the Law clarifies that employees working remotely must have the same rights and obligations as comparable employees working at the employer's premises, particularly regarding workload, assessment criteria, rewards, access to information, training and career development, union action and uninterrupted and confidential communication with union representatives, where relevant.

2. Right to disconnect

Among the most significant protections established by the Law is the employees’ right to disconnect. For this purpose, employers and employees’ representatives must agree on the technical and organisational means to ensure that remote employees can disconnect from the electronic means through which they offer their services without any detriment on employees who exercise this right. In the absence of such agreement an employer should still notify employees about this right.

This is aimed at protecting the health and well-being of remote workers and preventing burnout and other negative effects of remote work in adherence also to the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Law of 2023.

3. Data protection and right to privacy

Any assessment of remote workers’ performance should be carried out in a manner that respects their right to privacy and is consistent with the laws on protection of personal data. It is worth noting that the Law explicitly prohibits the monitoring of employees using webcams or other intrusive technological means for evaluating performance.

Penalties

Employers should be aware that the Law sets out the duties and powers of Inspectors whose main task is to ensure the full and effective implementation of the provisions of the Law, violation of which shall render them liable, in case of conviction, for a fine not exceeding €10,000.

What should employers do now?

While many employers have already successfully implemented remote working, any existing arrangements or policies may not comply with the requirements of the Law. That said, employers should familiarise themselves with the provisions of the Law and consider updating their employee handbooks/policies, including any remote/flexible work arrangements to reflect the new rights and obligations established by the Law as well as taking the necessary steps to implement the new legislative requirements.

Lastly, it is noted that the definition of remote work in the Law does not limit the place of remote work to the Republic of Cyprus therefore it should be expected that the Law may also apply in cases where the employee works remotely from abroad. When dealing with such cases, employers should also be looking at issues such as the mandatory local employment laws, permanent establishment, tax and social insurance considerations.

Nadia Tryfonidou, Partner, Head of Employment & Pensions

Eliada Georgiades, Lawyer.

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