Remote working refers to the carrying out of work away from the employer’s premises on a regular basis. This concept, which is also referred to as ‘teleworking’, initially gained prominence due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has since become an increasingly popular possibility for employees due to the various advantages associated with working away from the employer’s premises.
The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the main catalysts for remote working since many were forced to work from home due to the various restrictions in place at the time. This was seen all over the world, including Malta, which recorded an increase in the number of persons working remotely in Malta as well as those working remotely outside of Malta for Maltese businesses. In fact, a study by Eurofound discovered that remote working in Malta increased by 20% from 2019 to 2021. This trend is still present today and in fact Mr. Tony Sultana, the Principal Permanent Secretary, declared that changes would be applicable to the Public Service whereby there would be introduced the ability to work remotely for 20% of the working hours without being subject to an eligibility criteria as well as further hours subject to said criteria. These would be introduced by, at latest, 15th of June 2023.
This shift to remote working has gained traction due to the numerous benefits which attach to working away from the workplace. First and foremost, numerous studies have found that remote workers tend to be more productive than persons who work at the office. Furthermore, remote working provides flexibility and work-life balance. Employees can work from the comfort of their own homes, which eliminates the need for long commutes and saves time and money. This flexibility allows employees to balance their work and personal life more effectively. Remote working enables employees to better manage their schedules and work around other commitments. Moreover, remote working can also save employers’ and employees’ money. Employers can save on office rent, utility bills, and other overhead costs associated with maintaining a physical office space while employees can save on transportation costs.
In light of the increasing popularity of remote working, it is fundamental to consider the laws relating to remote working. These laws aim at regulating this type of work while outlining the various rights of employers and employees. For example, amongst various rights, employees working remotely enjoy the rights granted under the Employment and Industrial Relations Act and regulations thereunder, as well as rights granted under any individual agreements or collective agreements. Furthermore, they have the same collective rights, rights of access, training programmes and rights to appraisal policies which are provided by the employer to comparable employees at the workplace. The right to privacy is also a fundamental right which is outlined in the laws since the employer has the duty to respect the right of privacy of the employee. Among other duties, the employer is also tasked with the duty to provide, install and maintain the equipment required to work remotely.
The importance of remote working cannot be understated. Remote working has become a crucial component of modern work culture, and this is likely to increase in the future. With its numerous benefits, remote working and other alternatives such as hybrid systems offer many benefits to individuals, companies, and society as a whole. As we move forward into a more flexible and dynamic work environment, it is essential that we establish clear and comprehensive legislation to support this new way of working. By doing so, we can create a more equitable future for all.