Work from home jobs – Does it exploit the employee? The number of companies that have decided to work from home permanently in world is increasing. However, it is unclear how the expenses of hundreds of thousands of employees working from home such as overtime, internet, electricity and telephone will be covered. Due to the pandemic, thousands of companies across Turkey have made “work from home” permanent for their white-collar employees. However, the practice of “working from home” also brings serious loss of rights for employees who have to turn their homes into offices. While companies are making significant improvements in their costs during this period, the additional burdens placed on employees such as internet, electricity and overtime are increasing day by day. Experts speaking to DW Turkish say that there is a need for a new labor law regarding “work from home”, which has become increasingly common due to the pandemic.
Giant companies make it ‘permanent’
Recently, Turkey’s largest holding, Koç Holding, announced that 35 thousand office workers among its approximately 100 thousand employees will work from home from now on. After Koç Holding, Turkey’s 5th largest private bank, Akbank, affiliated with the Sabancı Group, also announced that it will make working from home permanent. Speaking to DW Turkish, Gökhan Gümüşlü, Head of Turkey Consulting Services at EY, an international consultancy and audit services company, says that the “work from home” obligation that emerged during the crisis has now become the “new normal” in working life.
Pointing out that balancing the work and private lives of employees has become an important problem in this process, Gümüşlü says, “Most of us’ homes are not designed for remote working. In addition, the fact that children are at home, internet connection and long working hours and the inability to socialize at all are among the difficulties experienced.”
“55 percent of companies will now work from home”
Dinçer Güley, Turkey CEO of Mercer, which provides international human resources management consultancy services, also said in a statement to DW Turkish, that according to the ‘Trends of Pay Increase and Benefits’ conducted in September 2020, 54.9 percent of companies are from home/remote. He notes that he intends to make the work permanent.
Stating that some companies in Turkey can offer their employees additional support such as laptops, mobile phones, online education, office furniture, Güley says: “For reasons such as saving the travel time that employees spend on their way to and from work, and reducing the risk of disease transmission because they stay away from crowded environments. It is an undeniable fact that working from home/remote is an effective solution. However, we can also observe that employees need more psychological support in the unusual conditions we are in.”
“Employer costs are left to the employee”
While the practice of working from home condemns employees to long working hours, it creates a serious saving opportunity for companies. Speaking to DW Turkish, social policy expert Assoc. Dr. Aziz Çelik says, “It is possible to say that it provides a significant advantage to companies in terms of travel, food expenses, office expenses and office rents.”
Pointing out that the employees have to bear these costs saved by the companies, Çelik says, “The equipment, computers or other additional devices that the workers will use during remote work, the internet and similar expenses that they will use at home are currently covered by the workers.”
“Right to disconnect” accepted in AP
Rules regarding working from home standards in European Union (EU) countries are becoming more and more specific. Finally, at the European Parliament (EP) General Assembly session held in Brussels at the end of January, the report on the “right to cut off contact” regarding the inability to reach employees outside of working hours was accepted.
In the report, it was stated that workers from home could not close their communication channels after the end of the working hours, and that long working hours and increasing demands on the employee caused various health problems such as anxiety, depression and burnout. Pointing out that employees have the right not to respond to e-mails, messages and calls regarding their weekend, annual leave and after-hours work, it was noted that a European Union (EU)-wide legislation should be prepared quickly on this issue.
Working from home research: “The concept of overtime is gone”
A study conducted by the digital platform application “Work in 24 Hours”, which brings job seekers and employers together, sheds light on the views of employees on the process of working from home in Turkey.
While 61 percent of the respondents say they are not satisfied with working from home, 65 percent say they have trouble focusing on work while working from home. 79 percent of the respondents stated that there is no such thing as overtime. The rate of those who said that their home and work life were mixed in this process was 71 percent.
“What’s the hardest part about working from home?” While 63 percent of the participants answered the question of not being social, 37 percent of them stated that they had problems communicating with their colleagues. 81% of the participants state that they are afraid of being unemployed in this process.
“The company must pay the internet bill”
In the “work from home” application, the most important problem outside the long working hours is listed as the increasing internet and electricity bills. Those who work from home have to endure an additional load of 100-300 TL per month on their bills. However, according to the law, employers are obliged to provide working tools and equipment to the workers while working from home.
Noting that the employer is responsible for providing energy needs such as computers, internet packages, electricity and natural gas, Dr. Özveri says, “The employer cannot impose these costs on the worker while working from home. It is an illegal practice to do so.”
So, what can employees do in the face of loss of rights?
Is it possible to report companies that exploit the “work from home” practice?
“Needs new legislation”
Attorney Özveri says that employees can use their right to complain about loss of rights by applying to the Regional Labor Directorates. Stating that employees can terminate the employment contract and demand severance pay on the grounds that they are employed in violation of the employment contract, Özveri says, “However, apart from this, unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done in the current legislation against illegal employer practices against the employee.”
According to experts, the state and companies need to implement regulations that will compensate for the loss of rights regarding working from home conditions as soon as possible. Emphasizing that due to the insufficient legal regulations, the employees are faced with the usurpation of their rights day by day, Assoc. Dr. Aziz Celik says:
“In order to prevent this, arrangements should be made as soon as possible to protect workers’ rights and prevent loss of rights while working remotely, and the employer should ensure that the equipment used by the workers while working remotely, the expenses they make, and the burdens arising from the transformation of the house into a workplace.”