Working from home
Teleworking or temporarily working at home?
The basic assumption is that the increased amount of working at home that is now happening in line with the current recommendations is temporary. Teleworking generally occurs on a regular and recurrent basis, and in these cases individual agreements are to be signed. Therefore, no agreements need to be entered into at present for employees currently working from home because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Work injury insurance – what are the rules when temporarily working at home?
As an employee of Uppsala University, you are covered even when temporarily working at home (via AFA Insurance). The insurance for occupational injuries is designed to cover accidents that are attributable to work, not accidents in the home. In contrast to when you are working at the workplace, the accident must be directly connected with the work that you are required to perform. In other words, the case-law indicates a restrictive interpretation of the concept of occupational injury. Employees working at home are recommended to have leisure accident insurance. For more information, see Corona - vilka försäkringar gäller? - AFA Försäkring
What responsibility does the employer have for the employee’s work environment when temporarily working at home?
The employer has primary responsibility for the work environment, even when employees are temporarily working at home. However, the employee has a responsibility to make the employer aware of any deficiencies in the work environment so that the employer can take this responsibility. When employees are temporarily working at home, it is therefore particularly important to be in continuous contact about the physical, organisational and social work environment.
For further information, see Swedish Agency for Government Employers.
What responsibility do you have as an employee temporarily working at home?
As an employee, you have a responsibility to participate in a dialogue with your employer about your work environment at home and to draw attention to any deficiencies in it. This includes both the social/organisational work environment and the physical work environment.
As far as possible, you should organise a workplace with a good physical/ergonomic work environment and ensure that you have the IT systems and internet connection required to be able to work at home. This also includes the communication resources needed in the form of Skype, Zoom, telephone and so on, to ensure a good social and organisational work environment. If you cannot organise a good workplace at home, you may for example need more frequent breaks to move around. If you do not have a good work environment at home, you may need to work at your usual workplace, or else apply for leave.
For further information:
Swedish Work Environment Authority provisions on Organisational and social work environment
Swedish Work Environment Authority provisions on Workplace design
Swedish Work Environment Authority information on Employee participation in work environment management
What are the rules and recommendations concerning the obligation of employees to be available and at the disposal of the employer, when employees are working from home? What if I am worried about becoming infected or about members of my family becoming infected?
Employees have to be at their employer’s disposal as long as they are not on sick leave, taking care of children, have been granted leave or are absent for some other valid reason. Normal working hours apply (with a possibility of overtime or additional time under the collective agreement). According to the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s recommendations, people who are not exhibiting any symptoms of illness can work.
The recommendation from UU is that members of staff who belong to an at-risk group or who live with a person in an at-risk group should be given the opportunity, as far as possible, to work from home. Other staff members should consider doing so all or part of the time, in consultation with their manager.
If working from home is impossible, the employer needs to make adaptations so that the employee can work at the workplace. The recommendation is to consider different options and to have a dialogue to find solutions that provide a good work environment while minimising contacts and the spread of infection. This is particularly important if the employee or someone living with them belongs to an at-risk group.
In view of the exceptional grounds that now exist, it may be necessary to interpret the obligation to work liberally, given changes in priorities and effects on workloads. The key point is that at the moment we need to help one another in the light of current circumstances. Working duties, however, must always be covered by the terms of the employment contract.
How do I monitor the work environment of staff working from home?
When members of staff work from home for an extended period, it is particularly important that you as manager monitor their situation and check how it is working. This involves both how well staff can perform their working duties from home and what sort of physical/ergonomic work environment they have at home, as well as how they may be affected by the change in the social situation that comes with working at home. If you have carried out a risk assessment, that will tell you directly which risks need to be monitored particularly closely. You can find advice about the types of risks that may arise in connection with working at home under the heading “Do departments/divisions need to conduct a risk assessment in view of the current situation in accordance with the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s provisions on Systematic Work Environment Management (AFS 2001:1)?” Bear in mind that some members of staff may be more affected than others by the current situation, and need checking up on more frequently.
How you specifically should follow up these issues depends on various factors, including how many members of staff you have and how you usually communicate. You could use one-to-one conversations (telephone or Skype/Zoom), email or scheduled staff meetings, which can also be carried out digitally.
Is it possible to have my appointment with Previa online or by telephone?
Yes, you can make all your appointments with Previa as online or telephone appointments or change existing appointments to online/telephone appointments (unless they involve a physical examination).
Can employees refuse to accept tasks other than those they normally perform on the grounds of fear of being infected?
No, as long as the employer directs and distributes work on the basis of the employee’s obligation to work. However, changes should primarily be made on a voluntary basis. If an employer nevertheless has to direct someone’s work against their will, they must first make sure that neither the person in question nor anyone in their immediate family belongs to an at-risk group.
Can an employer unilaterally decide that an employee has to work remotely to reduce the risk of infection at the workplace?
As far as possible, the employer should try to come to an agreement with the employee about working from home. However, on the basis of the employee’s obligation to work, an employer can direct an employee to perform other tasks, to work in a different part of the organisation or to work at another physical location. A transfer of this kind can, if permanent, be a ‘significant change’ of the kind that requires negotiation under Section 11 of the Employment (Co-Determination in the Workplace) Act prior to a decision.
If the change is short-term, for the purpose of reducing the spread of infection in a pandemic, there is no obligation to negotiate. In the opinion of the Swedish Agency for Government Employers, this also applies when an employer decides that an employee has to work from home. Nonetheless, the Swedish Agency for Government Employers recommends that the employer and the local employee organisations communicate before or immediately after any such decision, both in individual cases and if larger groups are concerned. This can also be done in connection with the risk assessment that the employer is obliged to conduct in collaboration with safety representatives under the work environment legislation.