Due to the exceptional circumstances that are currently forcing unprecedented numbers of employees to work from home, employers in the Netherlands should be aware of several important work-from-home rules.
Furnishing the workplace
According to law, an employer must ensure an ergonomic workplace. The question is whether it is feasible at the moment to have employees’ home offices completely ergonomically furnished. The law provides that the obligation to provide an ergonomically designed workplace does not apply if the employer cannot reasonably be expected to do so.
It is plausible that employers whose employees suddenly have to work from home due to the COVID-19 crisis, and normally never do so, cannot reasonably be held to the requirement of an ergonomic workplace. For example, an employer in severe financial distress due to the coronavirus cannot be expected to free up a budget for the purchase of expensive office chairs to use for a (hopefully) short period of time. However, it is important that an employer does as much as is reasonably possible. For example, an employer can give employees instructions on ergonomics or allow them to take an extra computer screen home for the work-from-home period.
Employers are obliged to ensure that the psychosocial workload on employees is not too high. Employees who are working from home can be exposed to an excessive workload unknowingly, for example as a result of having to work while also taking care of children. It is therefore advisable for employers to maintain regular contact with employees to monitor how things are going.
Employers must ensure that their employees work safely. When an employee works from home, it is not as easy for the employer to check whether an employee is taking sufficient breaks or sitting at a desk with good posture. Employers should therefore provide their employees with proper instruction on these matters. To do this, employers can use the tips published by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.
Privacy and digital safety
The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) has provided a few tips on working from home safely during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, employees are advised to work as much as possible with employer equipment (and not, for example, their private computers). The DPA also gives advice on the safe storage of sensitive documents and being alert to phishing emails. Employers would do well to think about work-from-home safety policies during the COVID-19 crisis and to instruct their employees accordingly.