By considering and taking into account the following five points, HR or the company manager can be more transparent in developing the necessary employer policies for general employment and the home office.
In the context of the Covid campaign, the state of emergency was lifted as of 1 June 2022, as a result of which the provisions in the government regulations were also abolished or restructured and have become part of the legal system. During the pandemic, teleworking or, more colloquially, home office, became not just an option but a common practice in many places, which the evolution of the epidemic situation has forced it into this situation. However, the negative aspects of the pandemic have also brought with them a number of positive developments and opportunities for innovation, which have led employers and managers to reflect on the restructuring of work in the workplace. In our previous article, we discussed the relationship and regulation of the home office and the telework contract, and this article deals with the related home working and other internal policies of the employer.
Some general points to think about when considering home office regulations
The range of internal rules can be wide, as the more general an employment contract is, the more emphasis is placed on the employer’s rules, which may include the values and rules that the employer has agreed upon. In the first place, it is important to emphasise that the employer’s internal rules should be mentioned among the other provisions of the employment contract, at least to the extent that they have been communicated to the employee by the employer at the time of the conclusion of the employment contract and that they should be provided to the employee. In the opinion of the Curia, such notification is sufficient if it is published in a manner customary and generally known at the employer’s place of business.
In the context of the home office, the employer’s home office arrangements are fully appropriate and, because of the possibility of different agreements under the Labour Code, can be properly designed by internal rules and regulations, which can be flexible to the needs of the employer and the employee. The design of the internal rules is entirely open to the areas that the employer wishes to regulate, so it is worth considering in this context the issues of working hours, data protection, confidentiality, accident prevention, the possibility of teleworking from abroad, the provision of work equipment and the costs of working from home.
What should be the starting point then? to what extent can the Employer be controlled?
Our firm has previously been commissioned to develop internal policies for companies in various fields around a home office culture and a code of ethics that conveys the values the company stands for. Following our methodology, after an audit of existing materials, we asked our client what were the key cornerstones that he, as an employer, would like to see consistently laid down in an internal code of conduct, which led him to the conclusion that he wanted to develop a set of codes of conduct, or codes of ethics, if you like, for employees.
In the home-working policy, it is important to take into account what kind of working groups have been formed at the employer and what kind of work is carried out by the employers, as teleworking is possible not only for computer-based work, but it is recommended that the details of this, the rules on health and safety and the cost of the work are set out in the policy.
The issue of employer inspections has changed compared to the emergency legislation, as the employer had to inform the employee of the rules of employer inspections before the emergency, and in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, the employer determined the method of inspection and, in the case of inspections on the premises where the work is carried out, the shortest period between the notification and the start of the inspection. As of 1 June 2022, the Labour Code will finalise the transitional provision governing the right of the employer to exercise the right of inspection at a distance by means of a computerised device during an emergency, unless otherwise agreed. Simplified occupational safety and health requirements have entered into force compared to the transitional rules applicable during the emergency, according to which the employer is responsible for implementing the requirements of safe and healthy working conditions. In the case of the home office, the more practical side is that if the employee works from home using only a computer device, the only obligation on the employer is to inform the employee in writing of the requirements for safe and healthy working conditions, so that the employee can choose where to work, which the employer can check by computer. In view of the above, it is therefore also worthwhile to address and detail the general health and safety rules in the home-working regulations, which is what we did for our client, by preparing a general information leaflet for employees on the rules of the home-working regulations. Of course, it should also be remembered that teleworking can also include work that is not carried out using a computer, but this is subject to stricter health and safety rules. Written information on health and safety can therefore be provided in the internal regulations, but it is important to note that the seemingly lenient health and safety requirements do not exclude the possibility of an accident at work during home office work, which does not, therefore, have a direct proportional effect on the employer’s exemption from liability in the event of an accident at work.
So, from an occupational safety and health perspective, the framework within which the employer determines the inspection of the place of work chosen by the worker may raise very interesting questions, because if the employer does not organise the inspection properly or fails to do so, it cannot be sure to what extent the place of work of the worker poses a risk of an accident at work. It is recommended that employers consider the control options available to the company and tailor the provisions accordingly, in order to include a written notice of the OSH in the home-work policy.
What is the overhead rate and to what extent is it compulsory?
The new rules on teleworking also allow for the payment of a service charge, which should also be referred to in the home office regulations. However, in the case of increased overheads under the current rules, employers should consider to what extent and for how many employees they wish to make the switch to teleworking effective and permanent, as the overheads allowance as an option may increase other costs for the employer, so it is worth consulting a financial adviser first. As regards the amount of the expenses incurred in connection with teleworking that can be deducted without justification, the agreement of the parties is the primary rule, but there is a statutory upper limit of 10% of the monthly minimum wage on the first day of the tax year, i.e. HUF 23,200 per month in 2023, which amount must be pro-rated if the employee does not telework for the whole month. It is important to note that this is not an obligation for the employer, but only an option. The employee is not entitled to this allowance, but may claim reimbursement of expenses reasonably incurred in connection with the performance of the employment relationship in accordance with the general rules of the Labour Code, subject to the burden of proof of the expenses. Payments in excess of this amount are not prohibited – although the part of the amount above HUF 23,200 may be subject to tax and contributions.
What codes of conduct can be created within an employer? Is there such a thing as a code of ethics?
In principle, employers are also given the opportunity by the labour law provisions to communicate the framework of the employment relationship to their employees in the form of rules. Employers therefore have a variety of options for communicating these to employees in the form of rules, depending on the issue they wish to regulate. From the employer’s values, to the employment-related benefits, such as the use and management of company cars and equipment, to the benefits, bonuses and cafeteria allowances that the employer offers to its employees. All this shows that the range of possibilities offered by the employer’s policies is colourful and limited only by the employer’s imagination. However, in addition to the subject matter of the rules, it is very important to pay due attention to the drafting of the rules and their communication to employees, because in a potential labour law dispute it is very important to know how the employer has communicated the rules or amendments to them to employees, if any. It is also important to emphasise that the use of codes is a task and time-saving tool, whereby it is sufficient to regulate the issue in a single summary, so that if in the future it is necessary to amend them, a single amendment and proper communication to employees will make their application binding. Conversely, in the absence of a code, it will be necessary to regulate each issue individually in the employment contract of each employee, so that if a modification is required, the employment contract will have to be amended individually, which will significantly increase the administrative burden for the employer.
Our client, as an employer, wanted the home office policy to communicate its values to its employees, so that they could be asked to adhere to them and to work as part of a unified team with similar values. In this context, a code of ethics has been drawn up, describing the behaviours that the Employer considers unacceptable in their established company culture, which, in the first instance, will result in a written warning to employees who breach it, and in the event of repeated breaches, immediate termination of the employer. For this code to be legal, it is important that it is drawn up in accordance with the Labour Code and fundamental rights.
In addition to the code of ethics, employers may find it useful to apply the following codes:
- Policy on the use of company cars and equipment
- For employers where employees are provided with a car hired or purchased by the employer as a benefit, it may be worth regulating the use of the car and the way in which the costs are borne.
- Its purpose is to set a clear framework for company car use, to provide guidance on issues that arise regularly and to clarify any disputes or uncertainties.
- It is worth clarifying your employer’s position on: fuel cards, paid parking, road tolls, possible fines and any assistance services.
- In the case of a company car, it is important to specify which position or job it is used for, so it is also essential to set out in what circumstances the employer can take it back, or what happens if the employee with the company car is transferred to another job within the employer
- It is also worth mentioning whether the company car is available to each employee during the probationary period or only after the successful completion of the probationary period.
- It is absolutely necessary to regulate cases where a traffic offence or an irregular parking, or possibly an accident, occurs. It is essential to clarify who will be liable for these, but in principle it is the user of the vehicle who will be liable, so it is also worth setting out the details.
- Cafeteria rules
- The cafeteria rules summarise the use of the employer’s cafeteria allowance and the provisions applicable to it.
- Its aim is to provide employees with fringe benefits based on common principles and rules that are jointly regulated and adapted to individual needs.
- It is worth setting out the amount of the bonus that the employer has discretion over which employees in which positions should receive it.
- Employers are entirely free to set the terms and conditions of the cafeteria allowance, but it is essential to set out the terms and conditions for this type of benefit.
- Bonus policy
- As a first step, it may be worth considering in which cases the employer wishes to offer a bonus to employees and in which cases it does not
- What is important is that labour law is not clear about what constitutes a bonus and what constitutes a bonus. The distinction between the two concepts is based solely on case law.
- In principle, the employer has the discretion to determine when, to whom and to what extent to give a bonus or, in other words, a bonus, but it is important to stress in this context that it will need to maintain the requirement of equal treatment. A bonus is not necessarily linked to job performance, but may be based on subjective judgements such as the employee’s attitude to work (e.g. proactive, agile), loyalty (e.g. anniversary), or perhaps a full year of continuous service (e.g. thirteenth month bonus).
- The bonus is a way of rewarding performance and therefore involves more documentation and objective evaluation. In other words, the employer predefines the reference period during which it expects the target to be achieved and attaches a bonus to the achievement of that target. The bonus is therefore a fixed, more predictable structure.
Overall, working from home offers many opportunities for both employers and employees. However, in order to ensure that it is regulated in a legally appropriate way, it is worth considering the interests and financial options of the employer and the possibilities that may later pose problems for the employee.
Please contact our office if you are an employer considering a hybrid working arrangement and would like advice on employment law.
dr. Szoboszlai Márta
dr. Bajcsay Gergely
Please note that the general information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We cannot be held liable for any misinterpretation of the above information or for any changes in the law that may have occurred in the meantime. If you have a specific question or legal problem, we are able to provide individual advice after consultation with our office and after a full investigation of the case.