Serbian government has issued a special regulation on the organization of work during the state of emergency prompted by COVID-19 (Uredba o organizovanju rada poslodavaca za vreme vanrednog stanja, “Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, no. 31/2020). The question is, however, to what extent this regulation really answers the employers’s real dilemmas.
The new regulation imposes an obligation on the employers to enable remote work for all employees whose work can be done on a remote basis.
If the employer’s work rules (pravilnik o radu) or individual employment agreements do not regulate remote work, the employer is required to issue individual decisions on remote work to each affected employee. The decision must determine (i) the duration of work hours; and (ii) the manner of supervision of the work performed remotely. In addition, the employer must keep the record of the employees working remotely.
Where remote work is not possible due to the nature of the work, the employer must mitigate the risk of disease spread by organizing work in shifts (if objectively possible), by replacing physical meetings with virtual meetings, by cancelling business trips and by ensuring protective equipment for those sharing the work space.
Whereas the new regulation is useful in terms of prescribing the manner in which remote work should be administered, it does not answer the question the employers have been facing amidst COVID-19 crisis: whether the employer can order remote work in those cases where the nature of the work is such that the work can be performed from home. Pursuant to Article 50 of the Labour Act, where remote work is not a rule, the employer and the employee can agree that the employee will work certain number of hours from home. What remains unclear is whether the employer may impose work from home in situations like COVID-19 assuming the work is of such nature that it can be performed remotely.