Undoubtedly, following the Covid pandemic, the employment market was impacted from many perspectives. Notably, the rapid trend by organizations to let their employees work remotely or change the policies by adopting the hybrid system.
The decision to adopt hybrid or remote work triggered several legal conflicts regarding the proper understanding of each party’s rights and obligations, especially with the absence of legal provisions and regulations that frame these mechanisms.
This article by Abdullah Ishnaneh Partner at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates, and Ahmed Elsayed, Associate at the same law firm, focuses mainly on the impact of hybrid and/or remote work from a legal standpoint, covering the legal implications of the introduced mechanisms on both organizations and employees.
Firstly, in any employment relationship, the employer is duty-bound to provide employees with the organization’s handbook and internal policies. Therefore, in such exceptional circumstances, once the company decides to adopt a hybrid or a similar system, it must issue a comprehensive policy to cover all the potential scenarios resulting from the newly adopted mechanisms. By fulfilling this obligation, the hybrid or remote transition will be adopted smoothly, allowing both the employer and the employee to benefit from such introduced flexible mechanisms.
Here are some of the topics that must be settled between the parties.
The Employment Contract
In light of such a rapid transition, the employment contract would be a challenge that needs to be well managed. Having a flexible work mechanism requires a flexible contract.
It would benefit both parties to have a tailored employment contract covering all the consequences of adopting the hybrid or remote work mechanism. This tailored contract will surely help the parties, particularly the employees, to know their rights and obligations before engaging with the organization, so they can voice any concerns before signing on.
Furthermore, this contract will be an effective resolution tool that will assist the parties to solve any conflict that may arise throughout the employment relationship. Even if the parties fail to solve any conflict, this contract will be the roadmap that makes it much easier for courts to decide on the merits, should it come down to that.
The working hours
The applicable working hours would also pose a challenge for the parties, particularly the employees. This is mainly because during the time that the employee works from home, practically, he is expected to be available, attending to his duties even far beyond the contracted or statutory working hours, including weekends.
Pragmatically, most employees ignore this fact since, generally, the global working hours drastically become disorganized while the employees adjust to the employer’s satisfaction levels.
Managing the working hours arrangement would lead to many significant legal conflicts. For example, the employer would cease or refrain from releasing overtime payments, relying on the global trend and the pandemic. Also, it would happen that the employee insists on not undertaking overtime duties, which would for sure affect work efficiencies.
Therefore, it is necessary for the parties to establish an arrangement regarding the working hours during remote working to avoid affecting work stability and for the employee to maintain his/her rights and be rewarded fairly.
The employers’ rights
By analyzing the implications of remote work, it is also necessary to consider the employers’ rights to maintain the team members’ productivity, attendance, and other organizational compliance necessities.
As mentioned earlier, due to the absence of the legal framework managing the newly introduced mechanisms, organizations are left with no option but to establish a comprehensive policy protecting their rights. For example, the organization could adopt a particular IT system to monitor the employees’ attendance by recording the In and Out logging or working hours. Also, the organization could update its compliance policies by introducing more disciplinary guidelines.
In general, the employer still has the legal grounds to take any action, including termination against the employee should the latter fail to perform.
In conclusion, despite the advantages introduced by hybrid and remote work mechanisms, they also profoundly impact the employment market, and as such, both employers and employees must have a clear insight and understanding of their respective rights and obligations to maintain grasping the benefit of such introduced flexible mechanisms.
Nonetheless, ultimately, both parties still have the right to take the proper legal recourse to claim rights and compensation under the applicable laws.