Remote Working in the New Normal After COVID-19

Global COVID-19 pandemic, which has been going on for over a year now, had inevitable impacts on the business life. During the pandemic, various measures have been taken into place at workplaces to fight this outbreak. Remote working was one of the most prominent measures of all. It is beyond question that remote working model will maintain its significance at workplaces even after the pandemic.

As per the Turkish Labour Act (the “TLA”), remote working is an employment relationship executed in writing, where employees carry out their duties either from home or by way of technological communication tools outside the workplace, within the employer’s work organization. The TLA provides that the i) principles and procedures of remote working, ii) works to which remote working is not applicable due to the nature of work, iii) application of operational rules concerning the protection and sharing of data, and iv) other issues shall be determined by a regulation to be issued by the Ministry.

In this regard, the Regulation on Remote Working (the “Regulation”) prepared by the Ministry entered into force upon publication in the Official Gazette numbered 31419 and dated 10.03.2021. In particular, one of the most noteworthy provisions in the Regulation is that, where remote working is applied at a workplace partially or in full on grounds of compulsory causes specified under applicable laws, no employee consent or approval shall be sought for introducing the remote working model. Other than the above, the Regulation consists of 14 articles, which concern the following issues:

  • Form and content of the agreement,
  • Organization of the workspace,
  • Supply and use of material and work tools,
  • Coverage of production expenses,
  • Determination of the work period,
  • Communication,
  • Data protection,
  • Occupational health and safety measures,
  • Works to which remote working is not applicable, and
  • Transition to remote working.

In addition to all these developments, the letter of the Social Security Institution dated 02.06.2021 stated that Monthly Premium and Service Document and Premium Service Declaration must include the information as to how many days out of all workdays were worked remotely, in addition to the information as to the insured’s total workdays in a month.

Remote working, which stood out among the measures introduced at workplaces and discussed by many businesses during the pandemic, is expected to gain a broader field of application in scope of the new normal after the pandemic. It must be noted that introducing remote working permanently would constitute a material change to the terms and conditions of employment. Therefore, employers who wish to permanently adopt remote working even after the compulsory pandemic situation must obtain employee consent in writing and comply with the legal requirements.

Also, during these times, many companies developed new approaches to restrict office resources, questioned the necessity of large premises, and especially chose to decrease the number of floors at their workplaces. In this regard, many companies tended towards terminating their lease agreements.

In addition to the above, we often see that businesses tend towards terminating their lease agreements concerning their physical offices and approaching towards virtual offices. In the past years, virtual offices mostly appeared to be a practice adopted by businesses especially during the research conducted before entering the market, as well as during liquidation. However, considering the cost advantages, this practice is expected to have a broader field of application during “the new normal” where office resources are reduced.

Although the Tax Procedural Law does not include a specific provision about virtual offices, Tax Offices appear to have quite a knowledge of this practice recently.

Remote working, which is one of the most effective measures globally in the combat against COVID-19, is expected to be encountered more often in the business life after the pandemic, and many companies are expected to re-shape their work order and resources in scope of “the new normal”. In this regard, many companies started shifting to remote working permanently.

First published by ILO - Employment & Benefits Newsletter in 28.07.2021.

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