Background: The remote working model entered into Turkish legislation in 2016 with the amendment to Article 14 of Labor Law No. 4857 ("Labor Law"). Remote work is defined as an employment relationship in which an employee performs work at home or outside of the workplace using technological means of communication, within the framework of a work organization created by an employer. The amendment stated that the details, procedures and principles of the remote working model would be governed by a regulation.
What Has Changed? Following the effect of the pandemic on the Turkish working landscape, the long-awaited regulation was published in the Official Gazette on 10 March, 2021 by the Ministry of Family, Work and Social Services. Key matters introduced by the regulation are summarized below.
Key Things to Consider When Designing Remote Work Relationships:
Agreement: An agreement must be in writing. This is a form requirement. An agreement should include:
- Definition of the work,
- Work procedures,
- Working hours, remote work duration and place,
- Salary and payment method,
- Tools & equipment provided, and the obligations for their protection,
- Communication methods between the employer and employee,
- General and special conditions.
Materials and Work Tools: Unless otherwise stated in an employment agreement, the provision of materials and work tools required for the production of goods and services by a remote employee will be covered by an employer. A list of work tools provided, indicating their cost on the date of delivery must be given to an employee in writing, and a copy of this document must be added to their personal file/agreement. The principles of use and maintenance, and repair conditions of the tools should also be explained to the employee clearly and understandably.
Data Protection: An employer is obliged to inform employees of the business rules and relevant legislation related to the protection and sharing of workplace and work data, and take the necessary measures to protect this data. Employees are obliged to comply with their employer’s data protection rules. Employers should determine the definition and scope of the data to be protected in the employment agreement.
Occupational Health and Safety: An employer is obliged to inform employees regarding occupational health and safety, deliver necessary training, provide health screening, and take all necessary measures for tools provided for remote work in terms of occupational health and safety.
Employment in Which Remote Work is Prohibited:
The regulation does not allow remote work when working with hazardous chemicals and radioactive substances, the processing of these substances, working with the waste of these substances, or working processes that risk exposure to biological factors. Work that involves strategic importance to national security as defined by relevant public institutions is also prohibited.
Transition to Remote Work:
- Employment agreements can start directly as a remote working relationship, or an existing relationship can be converted to remote work by mutual agreement of the parties. One exception to this principle is that switching to remote work is at an employer’s sole discretion due to force majeure events listed in the legislation.
- Employees may also request to switch to remote working. In this case:
- The request should be in writing.
- An employer should assess the qualifications of the work and employee and inform them within 30 days. A written remote work agreement with mandatory elements must be executed should the request be accepted.
Conclusion: The regulation echoes the Labor Law Principles from five years ago but goes beyond that by defining the details, procedures and processes for remote work. The regulation also obliges employees to take some procedural, preventative and principle based measures before entering into a remote work agreement. Whether starting a new employment relationship for remote working or converting an office-based relationship to remote work, employees and employers should comply with the regulation and seek legal advice when needed. You can read the regulation in the Official Gazette here. (Available in Turkish only)
With thanks to Simay Yetimoglu for her assistance on this article.