The Ministry of Labour’s Guide through occupational health and safety when working from home

The Serbian Ministry of Labour published on 18 January 2021 the Guide for Safe and Healthy Work from Home (Vodič za bezbedan i zdrav rad od kuće) (“Guide“).

The Guide defines work from home as work which involves the use of information and communication technologies (PC, laptop, smartphone, and tablet) enabling remote work.

Documenting work from home

The Ministry of Labour suggests in the Guide that the work from home on an exceptional basis (and not as a special form of employment) requires that the employer and the employee conclude a formal annex to the regular employment agreement which entails an offer to the employee of amended terms of work. This is debatable, given that the Labour Act provides the basis for an ordinary agreement on occasional work from home.

Given that the Occupational Safety and Health Act is not sufficiently elaborate in this respect, the Guide recommends to the employers to address occupational health and safety (OHS) in the context of remote work in the work rules/collective agreement or in the employment agreements, by specifying jobs that can be performed from home, equipment and tools, the manner of supervision and communication, and the manner of implementation of OHS measures.

OHS measures

Physical work space

The Guide advises the employers to ensure, in cooperation with the employee, adequate work conditions at the employee’s home. The employee working from home should, if possible, have a separate room for work and adequate equipment. In any event, the employee should designate the space at his/her home which will be considered place of work. That space should be clean and accessible, with electrical installations designed and set in a manner that does not represent fire risk. Desk should be adjustable, or the monitor should be on a pedestal. The monitor should be safe from screen glare. The chair should be stable, comfortable, and adjustable. The work space should have adequate lighting, a low degree of noise, and adequate temperature.

Work schedule

Work should be organised in a manner that respects work – life balance. The employer should ensure that the employee has work schedule and uses breaks he/she is entitled to. The employers are advised to contact the employees working from home only during work hours.

Risk assessment and supervision

The employer does not have to include jobs performed from home in the Risk Assessment Act, a mandatory internal document containing a description of the work process and an assessment of safety and health risks at work and the measures for removal or decrease of such risks. However, the employer should organize occupational safety and health training for the work from home. The Guide includes a check list which should help in determining OHS risks.

The Guide recommends having frequent online meetings, as well as regular physical meetings at the office or at home, regular examination of the work equipment and tools, organizing online help, providing regular instructions, providing necessary training. Some of the recommendations do not seem practical, such as the one advising rotation of the tasks between the employees who work in front of a monitor and those who do not work in that manner.

Conclusion

Due to the COVID-19, many employers have already organized work from home. The Guide’s to-do-list may be useful for the employers wishing to check the level of their OHS compliance in the context of remote work. It also offers predictability in terms of what labour inspectors may be looking for when investigating compliance.

 

Photo by Goran Ivos on Unsplash

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