As of Jan. 1, 2016, the Flexible Work Act (Wet flexibel werken) came into force, amending the Working Hours Amendment Act (Wet aanpassing arbeidsduur). This amendment introduces the right for employees to work from home.
The new act aims to promote flexible working by allowing employees to work at times that better fit their needs, and from a place they prefer, including working from home.
The Working Hours Amendment Act already offers employees the right to request a reduction or increase of their working hours. The new act extends the employees’ rights by introducing a right to request a change in working times (e.g., instead of working from 9 to 5, requesting to work from 10 to 6), and a right to request a change in the place of work. The new act does not specify or restrict the place of work; it could therefore be the employee’s home, or, for example, a different employer location closer to the employee’s home.
Each employee having worked for at least 26 weeks can apply for a change in working hours, working time, or place of work.
- What does it mean for your company as employer?
Following a specified request filed by the employee at least two months prior to the proposed start date of the change, the employer must inform the employee, no later than one month prior to the proposed date of the change, whether it accepts the request. In case the request is fully or partially denied, the employer must explain the reasons for this in writing and meet with the employee.
Employers can only reject a request to change working hours and working times on the basis of important business reasons that would create serious issues for the employer. Important business reasons consist of safety concerns, financial or organizational reasons, or problems with the business working schedule. Based on case law, however, courts do not easily accept the existence of important business reasons. Employers, therefore, must carefully consider the request and carefully explain the reasons for rejection.
For a request to change the place of work, the test of important business reasons does not apply. The act states that the employer should seriously consider the employee’s request and discuss it with the employee. In the event the request is denied, the employer needs to confirm this in writing and explain the reasons for not accepting the request. Employers seem to have more room to deny a request to change the place of work as opposed to a request to change working hours.
In a case where the employer agrees with an employee’s proposal to change the place of work, in particular to work from home, it is important for the employer to verify that the workplace meets health and safety requirements, and is sufficiently equipped to store confidential information of the employer.