19 May 2020

Has teleworking become the new normal? A checklist, from our consultants

The exceptional situation we are faced with today leads us to ponder on the digitisation of our professional lives. Do we decide to revert to the traditional way of working without teleworking? Or is teleworking set to become the new norm?

This constitutes interesting food for thought and we would recommend every organisation to dwell on the issue. But how do you bring this into operation? Our colleagues from HR AdvisoryEmployment & BenefitsTax and Data Security have drawn up this handy checklist for you. So you will be sure to have taken account of everything!

HR Advisory: Virtual management, a matter of conveying trust and fostering motivation!

Virtual management calls for a great deal of trust in your employees as well as a good appraisal of the personality of the employee in question. Not every personality is suited to a full day’s work on one’s own at home and not every home environment lends itself to this either.

You should therefore first pre-emptively sound out your employees to see how interested they are in telework being introduced. After all, teleworking is always done on a voluntary basis. What is more, it also represents a challenge for the manager to keep motivation up and be able to offer adequate structure.

 

Employment & Benefits: Set down all aspects concerning telework in a clear telework policy

Once you have taken the decision to introduce teleworking, you will most probably wonder how this works from a labour law point of view.

To this end first and foremost, according to Belgian legislation on structural teleworking, a written document is required in which a large number of mandatory particulars must be given. A second indispensable document is a “telework policy”, laying down the rules governing telework. If necessary you can also adapt your work rules.

A correct and proper telework policy contains the following information and guidelines:

  • Who is eligible for teleworking
  • How telework should be requested and the frequency. Are the days fixed or is there freedom to fix them?
  • Arrangements concerning timetabling (and the possibility of getting hold of the person between certain times)
  • Details on use of the equipment and the software supplied (e.g. “calls should always be made via Skype”) and the person or persons who can be contacted for technical support
  • The place the teleworker has chosen to perform his or her work
  • The person or persons who can be contacted for technical support
  • Monitoring of the employees’ performance by the employer
  • Welfare at work and industrial accidents
  • Penalties in the event of failure to observe the guidelines
  • Rules on the payment of possible expense allowances

 

Data Security: be mindful of the cyber risks associated with telework and take these into account in your policy!

Mobile working also entails (cyber) risks for the company, and you should be attentive to this. This means that a check should be made to ascertain who can work from home, what information or services are then accessible, and in what way protection is provided in these cases.

Rule out human error by means of training and awareness sessions. Since enforced working from home, there has also been a surge in cyber crime, for example by means of phishing. A stage-managed phishing campaign can reveal how efficiently your employees react to an attempt at phishing. Possible monitoring and control (time online, etc.) of teleworkers is only possible in a strict legal framework (taking account of collective labour agreement no. 81).

Place extra focus on processes and technology, too. Define best practices in respect of the use of a VPN connection, collaboration software and conference tools in the Telework policy and incorporate arrangements on data storage and protection in the agreements with suppliers as well. Personal data are also exchanged when video conferences are held, so GDPR is never far away on this account.

A general measurement of the IT environment’s maturity is useful here, too, so that you can be sure of future-proof business operations. Specific policies on matters such as anti-virus, anti-malware, back-up & update within your company also afford you the certainty that all your employees are working in the same way.

You can contact our data security consultants with any questions about the privacy of your teleworkers or the drawing up of a phishing campaign.

 

Tax: Be sure to consider requesting a ruling for a fixed telework allowance

The introduction of telework resulted in employees incurring extra costs over the past period and will result in them having to incur further additional costs on account of working from home in this way. Employers can refund these costs in a lump-sum and tax-free manner and in a way that is favourable from a social security standpoint.

To secure certainty as far as tax treatment is concerned, it is recommended that a request be submitted for a ruling with the Office for Advance Tax Rulings (“OATR”). Further to the Covid-19 situation the OATR makes provision for a temporary fast-track procedure pursuant to which, on the basis of a standard request being submitted, you can already grant your employees a maximum expense allowance of EUR 126.94 per month. This request for a ruling automatically expires as soon as the measures taken by the federal government are no longer in force.

The granting of a telework allowance of this kind is not a new development, which means it is important to be aware that this telework allowance to the sum of EUR 126.94 cannot be simultaneously applied if your employees are already being granted an allowance to cover the same costs.

Would you like to find out more about the costs that a telework allowance is deemed to cover? Do you want more details about the (para)fiscal treatment of this allowance? Are you wondering about the size of the allowance you can grant if your staff are already partially back at work at the office?

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HR advisory

Do you have any further questions about this? Then be sure to contact our advisors! Let's talk!

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