MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish government has agreed with unions and business leaders that employers must cover home working expenses after the coronavirus pandemic caused millions to work from their living rooms, Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias said on Tuesday.
“It was fundamental to regulate remote working to protect the rights of workers,” Iglesias said in an interview with state-owned TV channel TVE.
Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz had told him about the agreement late on Monday, he said.
Under the government’s draft proposal seen by Reuters, companies would have to bankroll all expenses employees may have when working from home, including computer equipment and furniture, while employees can ask for flexible working hours.
The benefits would only apply to employees who stay home for at least 30% of their work schedule, and employers will have the right to monitor workers’ online presence while respecting dignity and privacy, and to ask them to be flexible about working hours.
All home working arrangements have to be volunatry, both for employers and employees.
The new rules, if approved by parliament, would not apply to home working schedules that were put in place specifically to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Three months after the official end of Spain’s lockdown, millions of workers are still working remotely as social distancing rules limit office capacity.
The labour ministry is also seeking an extension of a furlough scheme that is due to expire on Sep. 30.
The lockdown marked a big change for Spaniards mainly unaccustomed to clock in from home. Only 3.5% of Spanish workers partly worked from home in 2019, compared with a 9% average in the European Union, according to Eurostat.
With 671,468 cumulative infections, Spain has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Western Europe. More than 30,663 people have died since the start of the pandemic.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Belen Carreño, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Ingrid Melander)