On April 27, through Decree 649 of 2022, the Colombian Ministry of Labor regulated the procedure for authorizing work from home, understood as the occasional, temporary, and exceptional authorization given by employers to workers to perform their work from their home. This authorization is granted based on extraordinary circumstances that are expected to be overcome given time, which allows employers to accept that workers can perform their functions in a different location from their usual place of work, without this implying a modification or affectation to the rights and guarantees of workers or to the working conditions agreed upon at the beginning of the labor relationship. Thus, we explain bellow what the procedure for authorization is, as established in this new decree.
The authorization to work from home may be requested by workers, who must inform in writing, either by physical or digital means, of the occurrence of exceptional circumstances, attaching the evidence that accredits their occurrence, and asking for the authorization to carry out their duties from home. However, the mere submission of the application does not imply that employers must accept it, since it is not the worker’s right. On the other hand, the authorization to work from home may be implemented by employers regarding one or more of their workers because of the occurrence of these extraordinary situations, without the need of a prior request. In both cases, the decision to enable work from home must be made in writing, by means of a notice sent to workers, physically or digitally, in which they are informed of: (i) the occasional and exceptional situation that allows for the authorization of working from home to be granted; (ii) the term of this authorization, which may be a maximum of six (6) months, unless the circumstances that gave rise to the authorization persist, in which case it will remain in force until such circumstances disappear; (iii) the duties that the worker must perform during the authorization; (iv) the means of communication through which employers and workers may report any updates, (v) the channels for complaints from workers so they may submit their concerns or claims of infringement of their right to disconnect from work or of workplace harassment; (vi) the physical address from which workers will perform their duties, (vii) if there is an agreement for workers to use their own equipment for the performance of their duties, and if compensation will be paid or not, otherwise in case of a lack of agreement, it must be supplied by employers, indicating all the equipment and tools that will be delivered along with the liability regarding their custody and the procedure for the delivery and return of said tools, and (ix) the computer security measures workers must comply with. In addition, this decree also establishes new obligations, prior to the authorization for working from home, that employers must comply with, such as: (i) filling out the form provided by the workers’ compensation administrators (ARL, by its Spanish acronym), informing them about the authorization to work from home, the period for which the authorization will be granted and the physical address from which workers will perform their tasks, (ii) having the necessary procedure to guarantee the right to disconnection from work, and (iii) training workers to ensure the proper use of information and communication technologies.
In case of receiving a request to authorize work from home, employers must respond in writing within a period not exceeding five (5) days and, take into account within the criteria to grant the authorization, in addition to the existence of exceptional circumstances, the possibility that workers’ duties can be performed outside the usual place of work without affecting the adequate provision of the service or workers’ productivity and whether the company has the necessary tools. Once the authorization to work from home is granted, employers must include work from home within their methodology to identify, evaluate, assess and control dangers and risks to workers and adopt all the necessary actions in the Annual Work Plan of the Occupational Health and Safety Management System (SG-SST, by its Spanish acronym). Likewise, employers must take the corresponding actions to protect and guarantee human dignity and workers’ rights. When the period of authorization to work from home expires or the conditions that gave rise to this authorization are overcome, employers must inform workers, immediately, about the expiration and their return to the usual place of work.
Finally, bear in mind that the authorization to work from home includes the possibility of working from abroad with the prior authorization of the employer, who must report this situation to the ARL and take all necessary measures to ensure that workers are enrolled and protected by the Social Security System of Colombia. Additionally, there is also the possibility of implementing work from home under the alternation model, that is, employers may determine that some days of the week workers perform their duties in person at the usual place of work and other days from home.
In case you have doubts regarding these obligations or any labor issue, do not hesitate to contact us so that we can provide you with the counsel you need.