Currently, the hiring of workers who carry out their functions through information and communication technologies (“ICT”) has become popular. For this reason, the Colombian Ministry of Labor has regulated the different types of distance work agreements so that both employers and workers know their rights and comply with their obligations. Here we tell you what these types are and answer the most frequently asked questions about them:
1. What does each of these types of distance labor agreements consist of?
- Work-from-Home: This is an occasional, temporary and exceptional authorization that employers grant workers to perform their duties from home due to extraordinary circumstances that are expected to be overcome in time. It does not imply a modification or affectation of workers’ rights and guarantees or to the labor conditions agreed upon at the beginning of the labor relationship. This authorization may be granted for a maximum of six (6) months, unless the circumstances that gave rise to the authorization to work from home persist, in which case it will remain in force until such circumstances disappear.
- Teleworking: Workers perform their functions using information and communication technologies (“ICT”) as support, so their physical presence at a specific workplace is not required. This type of agreements authorize three (3) types of teleworkers:
- Autonomous: when workers use their own home or somewhere other than the place of business, previously agreed upon with their employers, and sporadically go to the company’s place of business.
- Mobile: When workers relie on the use of mobile technological devices, but do not have a fixed workplace and occasionally go to the company.
- Supplementary: Depending on the need for the service, workers work either from their house or from the company’s place of business.
- Remote work: It is a form of performance of labor contracts in which ICTs or other similar means are used. That is, employers and workers do not interact physically since all stages of the contract are performed virtually. However, exceptional situations may be agreed upon in which the physical presence of workers in the workplace is required.
2. So how are they different?
The main difference is that work from home is the authorization granted by employers to workers to carry out their functions from home due to an extraordinary situation. Thus, it is a temporary authorization, so that once this extraordinary situation is overcome, workers must return to their place of work. On the other hand, remote work is completely virtual and there is never physical contact between employers and workers except in special circumstances. Finally, teleworking involves the provision of the service through technological means, but with the possibility that workers occasionally go to the workplace according to the company’s needs.
3. Must they be in writing?
Yes. For the authorization to work from home, a written notice by employers of the authorization given to workers is sufficient. That is, modification of the initial agreement or entering into a new one, is not required. However, this written notice must include certain information such as the situation that allows this authorization to be granted, the term of duration, the functions that workers must perform, among others. In the case of teleworking and remote work, it is necessary that employment contracts clearly indicate the chosen type of modality along with all conditions, obligations and rights that the parties will have. Thus, in the event that the initially agreed upon modality of work is to be changed, the original employment contracts must be modified.
4. Is the right to disconnect recognized in all three types of agreements?
Yes, employers have the obligation to recognize workers’ right to disconnect from work in order to guarantee respect of their free time and breaks, so that workers can fully enjoy these spaces and reconcile personal and family life with work.
5. What is the digital connectivity aid?
It is a change in the destination of the legally mandated “transportation aid” for those workers who are temporarily enabled to work from home, in order to facilitate access to the connectivity services they require to continue performing their work from their residences. Thus, workers who earn up to two (2) legal monthly minimum wages (SMLMV, by its Spanish acronym) and who are entitled to the payment of “transportation aid”, will receive this payment as a digital connectivity aid during the time they provide their services under the authorization to work from home (article 10, Law 2088 of 2021).
6. Is it mandatory to recognize the digital connectivity aid in all three modalities of distance work?
No, as mentioned above, this aid should only be recognized for workers who: (i) earn up to two (2) SMLMV, (ii) are entitled to “transportation aid”, and (iii) are carrying out their functions under the temporary and transitory modality of work from home.
However, in the case of teleworking, it is possible to establish, by mutual agreement, a compensatory aid for the costs of public services such as Internet, landline and mobile telephony and energy. That is, workers and employers may agree on the recognition of this compensatory aid and its amount, as it is not mandatory. Similarly, in the case of remote workers, the parties are also free to agree on the payment of compensatory assistance, as it too is not mandatory. However, in the event that the aid is agreed upon, the amount may not be less than the value that has been established for the “transportation aid”.
7. Is it necessary for employers to provide workers with work items and tools?
Although employers may provide equipment and work tools suitable for the performance of the contracted functions, it is also possible to agree to workers’ use of their own equipment and tools. Additionally, the parties may agree on a compensatory fee for the use of these tools owned by workers, but it is NOT mandatory.
8. Must any process be carried out before the workers’ compensation administrators?
Yes. For any of the modalities it is necessary to notify the workers’ compensation administrators (ARL, by its Spanish acronym) of the chosen modality, the place where workers will carry out their functions, working hours and the type of risk. Likewise, in case there is any modification in this information, the ARL must also be informed.
9. Must workers be ordered to submit to occupational medical examinations?
Yes. Employers must order occupational medical exams when workers start working in the company, when they leave the company, after a medical leave and also periodically during the employment relationship, to identify workers’ health conditions. These evaluations may be conducted via telemedicine.
10. Is it necessary to have any special regulations in the workplace policy regarding these modalities?
No, the implementation of these modalities does not require an addition or modification to the workplace policies.
11. Must the Ministry of Labor be notified?
Only in the case of teleworking, since employers must inform the Ministry of Labor of the number of teleworkers that the company has, for which a digital form that the Ministry has established must be filled out.