ARTICLE
11 January 2024

Laying Down The Foundations On Remote Working In Cyprus: A New Era

EN
Elias Neocleous & Co LLC

Contributor

Elias Neocleous & Co LLC,  a young firm with a distinguished ancestry built on integrity, commitment and quality which we are not only continuing but expanding. Harnessing the power of technology we aim to deliver bespoke,  innovative legal solutions at ‘ cheetah fast ‘ speed. We look forward to working with all clients who share our passion for excellence driven by the highest standards of ethical legal services.
A significant and rising development in the private working sector of the Republic of Cyprus is remote working. This trend has become particularly prominent following the impact of COVID-19.
Cyprus Employment and HR
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A significant and rising development in the private working sector of the Republic of Cyprus is remote working. This trend has become particularly prominent following the impact of COVID-19. Whether on a full-time or hybrid basis, or simply for matters of convenience or emergencies, remote working arrangements are in high demand.

There are various reasons why both employees and employers may desire to adopt remote working practices. This could be to avoid costs, to benefit from tax and social security incentives, participate in national initiatives promoting the business of a particular industry or purely wishing to work in a much more attractive climate like Cyprus.

On account of the increasing interest in remote working in Cyprus, an entirely new initiative has been introduced with the enactment of the Law on Remote Working or otherwise the Remote Working Law of 2023 (Law 120(I)/2023). The initiative aims to regulate remote working in Cyprus and safeguard employees' rights during such arrangements with their employers. This includes, inter alia, the right to disconnect, a widely discussed hot topic at the EU level in recent years.

General Principles

In particular, the new Remote Working Law applies to private sector employees and persons who work for legal entities that are governed by public law or for a local authority. It does however expressly exclude public sector employees. Moreover, remote working, also known as 'teleworking', is defined as the performance of work remotely by an employee using technology. This can occur under a full-time, part-time, or other form of employment contract and may be carried out from the employer's premises and/or from a location other than the employer's premises.

It is important to note that remote working arrangements are purely optional and not mandatory. However, when remote working is agreed upon between an employer and employee, it must be formalised in writing, either at the time of hire, through an amendment of an existing employment contract, or by collective agreement. Furthermore, entering into remote working arrangement must not adversely affect any other terms of the employee's employment. It should also not lead to any form of discrimination or unfavourable treatment towards an employee working remotely, or one who refuses to work remotely. Such practices are prohibited.

Additionally, on special occasions, remote employment may be requested by the employer. This can be for reasons of public health protection, supported by a relevant Decree by the Minister of Health. On the other hand, it may also be requested by the employee where there is a proven danger to his/her health that could be avoided through remote working.

Essentially, the remote working agreement changes the way in which the work is performed. It does not however affect the employment status and/or the employment contract of the employee, whether in full-time, part-time, or another form of employment. Moreover, remote working may be performed full-time, part-time, or on another employment basis, either exclusively or as part of a hybrid system.

Nevertheless, although entering into a remote working arrangement may be optional, once this is agreed, the provisions of the Remote Working Law must be followed, and employers' obligations provided under the law must be adhered to.

Employer Obligations

Specifically, the employer should bear the costs incurred by the employee as a result of remote working. This includes the cost of equipment (unless it is agreed that the employer's equipment is to be used), telecommunications, the use of the home workplace, and the maintenance and/or of the equipment used. Additionally, the employer should undertake to provide the employee with the necessary technical support for the efficient performance of his/her work. In the event of a breakdown or damage to the equipment used, which is not due the recklessness or negligence of the employee, the employer is responsible for paying the costs to repair or replace the equipment.

The Law on Remote Working additionally obligates employers to take the necessary measures to facilitate the remote working of employees with disabilities and to safeguard the health and safety of minorities that work remotely on the employer's premises, as required by the respective laws.

Moreover, within 8 days from starting the remote working, the employer is required to inform the employee in writing of the changes in the working conditions of his/her employment because of the remote working arrangement. This information includes the following:

  1. the employee's right to disconnect;
  2. an analysis of the costs associated with the remote working arrangement, which are periodically borne by the employee, including the cost of telecommunications, equipment and its maintenance repair, and the ways that the costs concerned will be covered by the employer;
  • the necessary equipment required for efficient remote working performance, which the employee has available and uses for the benefit of the employer or which the employer provides to the employee and the procedures for technical support, maintenance and repair of damage to the equipment;
  1. any restriction on the use of equipment or IT tools, including the internet, and any penalties that may apply in case of violation of such restriction;
  2. availability during remote working, specifying when the employee is reachable, the time limits and means of communication, and response deadlines;
  3. the risks as well as the protection and prevention measures to be taken during the remote working, based on a written risk assessment to be performed by the employer;
  • the obligation to protect and ensure the safety of the company's confidential information, the employee's personal data, and the prescribed actions and procedures to adhere to this obligation; and
  • the supervisor/direct line manager from whom the employee will receive instructions and report to while working remotely.

Where the above information is not tailored to a specific employee working remotely and will instead apply to a number or group of employees, it may be conveyed via company policy and by uploading it on the employer's internal database.

Furthermore, as regards the assessment of performance of remote working employees, an employer should carry out such assessment in a manner that is respectful of the employee's private life, and which protects their personal data. Prior to implementing systems, technology, applications, measures, or tools for exercising functions of supervision, timekeeping, or performance evaluations, the employer should conduct a data protection impact assessment in accordance with Article 35 of the GDPR. Additionally, they should also follow the procedure of prior consultation with the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection. Notably, the Remote Working Law expressly prohibits employers from monitoring the performance of employees working remotely using cameras or other surveillance systems or applications which are of an intrusive nature.

Lastly, in compliance with the provisions of the relevant laws of the Republic of Cyprus on health and safety in the workplace, the Law on Remote Working requires employers to carry out a written risk assessment of existing dangers or hazards, and to determine any necessary preventative and corrective measures that need to be taken as well as provide necessary information, training and guidance to ensure the health and safety of their employees that work remotely. Unfortunately, the Law on Remote Working does not provide any guidance as to how the required risk assessments may be performed. It is however possible that this may be achieved by conducting on-site visits at the employee's remote workspace with their prior knowledge and consent or remotely via a video call.

Employees' Rights

Other than what is already outlined herein, the new Remote Working Law introduces the 'right to disconnect'.

In this context, employees that work remotely are entitled to disconnect or switch-off from the electronic means through which they provide their services remotely with the use of technology. The technical and organizational measures that employers must adopt to ensure the employee's break from digital communication and work tools are mandatory terms that should be agreed upon and included in writing when a remote-working arrangement is concluded.

Alternatively, where no agreement exists between the employer and employee regarding the employee's right to disconnect, the aforementioned technical and organizational measures are determined by the employer and communicated to all of its employees, e.g. by way of a company policy.

It goes without saying that discrimination against an employee that exercises his/her right to disconnect is strictly prohibited.

Moreover, the Law on Remote Working ensures that employees working remotely continue to enjoy the rights and obligations as other comparable employees within the same organization that do not work remotely. This includes the rights or obligations in respect of their workload, the criteria and procedures for their evaluation, their rewards, their access to information concerning the employer, their training and professional development, their trade union, and the unhindered and confidential communication with their respective trade union representatives.

To conclude, in view of the novel legislation on remote working in the Republic of Cyprus, we are proactively working with our clients to advise them on best practices. This involves assisting them in implementing employment policies and incorporating specialised clauses in employment contracts that align with and adhere to this new regulatory framework.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

ARTICLE
11 January 2024

Laying Down The Foundations On Remote Working In Cyprus: A New Era

Cyprus Employment and HR

Contributor

Elias Neocleous & Co LLC,  a young firm with a distinguished ancestry built on integrity, commitment and quality which we are not only continuing but expanding. Harnessing the power of technology we aim to deliver bespoke,  innovative legal solutions at ‘ cheetah fast ‘ speed. We look forward to working with all clients who share our passion for excellence driven by the highest standards of ethical legal services.
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