Working from home: when is it allowed and when not? | NOW

Working from home during corona time has now become normal. Still, trade union CNV reported on Friday that many people who can work from home have to come to the office from their boss. Is an employer actually allowed to request this from his staff? And can an employee refuse to do so? lists some questions and answers about working from home.

Is an employer obliged to allow working from home?

That strongly depends on the situation. First of all, there are professions for which working from home is impossible, such as electricians or postal workers. Many professions can be done from home and employers often have no problems with that at the moment. This does not apply to all companies and they have a legal leg to stand on; the law does not state that working from home is a right. So if the employer provides a safe workplace and you do not belong to a risk group, for example due to a respiratory disease, the employer may ask you to come to the office.

“Admittedly, there is the Flexible Working Act, in which the employee can ask for a different workplace. But the law only states that the employer should seriously consider this”, says Ruben Houweling, professor by special appointment of Employment Law at Erasmus University Rotterdam. “In practice, that rule is a toothless tiger. Because what is serious consideration? However, if working from home is possible and an employee belongs to a risk group, then you as an employer must have a very good story if you do not want to allow working from home.”

Can my employer fire me if I refuse to come to the office?

There are conceivable situations in which this is allowed. This depends on a number of things, including how safe the workplace is, how easy it is to do work from home and whether you belong to a risk group. “Suppose you are a healthy 28-year-old man and you do work that is difficult to do from home. Then the employer may oblige you to come to the business. And if you don’t, it could be seen as a work refusal. which is a valid reason for dismissal, “Houweling explains.

If it is nevertheless difficult to come to work, for example because you have a condition, it is wise to consult with your employer. “Suppose you do factory work, but you belong to a risk group. Then you can propose to temporarily do other work that you can do from home, for example administrative work. But you cannot enforce that.”

What if my workplace is not safe?

Then it is different, according to, among other things, a court decision of October 2020. An employer wanted a female staff member to come to the office, but he refused. She belonged to a risk group for heart complaints and felt the workplace was not safe. For example, she was ‘in the loop’. In addition, she did telephone work, which could be done from home. The woman has therefore won the case.

“The employer had not done everything to make the workplace safe. The employee could also demonstrate that in court. The employer could not do much in opposition,” said Rein Putkamer, Employment Lawyer at Ekelmans and Meijer. “But if your employer does arrange a safe workplace, you have to come to work, even during corona time.”

What has been arranged for the period after corona?

Many employers are now lenient about working from home, but once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, the question is how many people can still work from home. “The right to work from home has not yet been laid down in law”, Putkamer reports. “There is, however, the Working Where You Want Act. It contains provisions for working from home. But whether and when that bill will actually be introduced is not yet clear.”

Several large companies have already announced that they will always allow working from home in the future. For example, Facebook and Twitter have announced that staff are also allowed to work from home a lot after the pandemic. Unilever CEO Alan Jope also said this week that he thinks his employees will never again be in the office five days a week. But for the time being it seems to be the employer who determines this.


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