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Brussels April 26 2001

Telework : Diamantopoulou welcomes European agreement on telework in the commerce sector.

Employment Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou today welcomed the social partners(1) EU-wide agreement on guidelines for telework in the commerce sector. Commerce is the EU's largest sector, employing 23 million workers or 16% of the total workforce. The agreement sets out concrete guidelines for regulating telework through collective agreements and other arrangements at national and company level. It stipulates that teleworkers should be employed on a similar basis to any other employee, enjoying comparable employment rights, remuneration structures and career opportunities.

Welcoming the accord, Diamantopoulou said: "The social partners in the commerce sector have sent a clear message that action at Community level can help in setting up a framework for new forms of work organisation such as telework. By concluding this European agreement, the social partners in commerce are demonstrating that the largest European private sector in terms of employment is fully committed to both the challenges of the knowledge society and to improving employment potential and competitiveness in Europe. I firmly hope that others sectors and the cross-sector social partners find inspiration in this accord."

The agreement also establishes guidelines on the notification of the concrete employment conditions and date protection; privacy; health and safety of equipment and telework venue; compensation for the generated costs; participation in trade union work and social contacts with the company and the other workers.

See also SPEECH/01/186 for further information.


    [Graphic in PDF & Word format]


    [Graphic in PDF & Word format]

European Agreement on guidelines on Telework in Commerce

1. The European social partners for commerce, EUROCOMMERCE and Uni-Europa Commerce, are committed to developing the European framework for working life and labour relations in their industry primarily through a voluntary social dialogue and through the conclusion of European Framework Agreements.

2. As a dynamic part of the European economy, reacting to structural and technological development, changing and evolving consumer demands, the needs and aspirations of employees and the demand for new qualifications, the retail and wholesale trade is constantly developing its functions. This affects also work organisation and the design of individual jobs and tasks.

3. New technologies have made it possible to increase the range of tasks which can be undertaken at a physical distance from the permanent work-place. While this poses new challenges to employers and workers, it can also offer new opportunities. It is important that any changes in work organisation or job design, which would introduce or change work done from a distance, using new technologies, are carefully organized and introduced.

4. In this agreement, telework refers to all work comparable to those which could be carried out by an employee at the workplace but which may also be done at a distance, using computer technology, normally connected to the information network of the company. These guidelines do not concern self employed people, as defined by national legislation. These guidelines do not refer to telework, which is done only occasionally, and they only refer to main employment relationships.


Social partners for commerce in different Member States of the European Union have chosen or may choose to regulate telework in various ways, through particular agreements on appropriate levels or through integrating telework-issues in existing collective agreements or recommendations. Whatever approach is selected, the following guidelines are recommended when introducing and implementing telework.

Introducing telework

6. Telework can be a good solution for an employer or a worker during certain periods of life or when continuing to work at company premises is not possible. This allows the employment relationship to continue and the professional qualifications to be retained. Measures should be taken to ensure that the important social contact with the work-place and the other workers is not lost. If it is possible in particular situations, this aim can be achieved through a combination of telework and work on company premises. When a teleworker, who has earlier worked in other functions in the enterprise, wishes to return to work at the company premises, efforts should be made to make this possible. In other situations, virtual communities for the workers concerned could be created, using the available technologies.

7. Decisions concerning the introduction or implementation of telework should be made in a transparent way, respecting the existing information and consultation structures and procedures. Telework should be designed so that it is favorable both for the company and for the employee.

Employment conditions

8. An employee who is doing telework is employed in the company on a similar basis as any other employees including comparable employment rights, remuneration structures and career opportunities. Referring to articles 2 (hiring of an employee) and 5 (modification of aspects of the employment relationship) of the Directive 91/533/EEC(2), essential aspects of employment conditions should be notified to the teleworker. This includes :

  • identification of the parties

  • the place of regular work (or principle that the employee is employed at various places) and the registered place of business

  • the use of premises for telework

  • the job description

  • the date of the beginning of the contract or of the employment relationship

  • the length of the employee's normal working day or week

  • the basic amount and other component elements of the remuneration to which the employee is entitled

In line with good employment relations and working practice, social partners also recommend that the following areas are explained to the teleworker :

    - Social security protection and insurance

    - Supervision and consultation structures

    - Data protection and confidentiality

    - Training

9. Legislation, collective agreement provisions when they exist, and whenever possible company regulations concerning working hours, should be applied for teleworkers, in a way that is adapted to the particular circumstances. Adapting to the particular features of telework, particularly when flexible working practices are agreed, the measurement of a teleworker's work output may, however, be based also on factors other than working time.

Holidays and absence

10. Absence due to sickness, holidays or other reasons should be communicated in accordance with the general practice of the enterprise. The company should bear in mind that arrangements may be needed to ensure that the tasks of the teleworker are taken care of during absence.

Tasks and confidentiality

    When supervising and monitoring the work done by a teleworker, full respect must be given to any legislation and good practices to ensure the privacy and integrity of the worker. In doing this, particular attention must be paid to the restrictions on the right to register data.

12. The teleworker must respect the established rules of confidentiality in the enterprise and take reasonable steps so that confidential data cannot be accessed by unauthorized persons.

Telework venue and equipment

13. As far as possible, the venue where telework is done should be recognized as equivalent to other working premises of the company. The design of the work-place and the equipment that is being used must, whenever possible, conform to the same regulations as those that are applied at these premises.

14. Health and safety representatives as well as other representatives nominated by the employer should have the right to access and inspect the telework venue in accordance with applicable legislation, having informed the employee in advance. Conditions of health and safety inspections should be included in the contract or the company's internal rules when there is a lack of national regulation concerning health and safety arrangements for telework.

15. As a rule, systems of compensation should be defined for costs generated by teleworking. They should also cover insurance to cover damage to the equipment and any damage that may be caused to third parties or to the premises where the telework is being carried out.

As a rule, the company is responsible for all necessary equipment and for its installation. The company shall also undertake all servicing and necessary updating of equipment and all suitable user training. The teleworker should take reasonable care of the equipment.

16. All computer systems should only be used for business purposes and teleworkers must not distribute illegal, offensive or confidential material via any system or the internet

Participating in trade union work

17. Recognizing that the company has the right to issue guidelines on the proper use of its equipment and communication facilities, a teleworker has the same right as other employees in the company to communicate with his/her colleagues, using this equipment and facilities. This right must include communicating about matters relating to work and labour relations, with the trade union organisation to which the teleworker belongs or with other bona fide personnel representatives. Communications between a teleworker and his/her personnel or trade union representatives must be kept confidential and must not be accessed by the company.

18. The teleworker must have the same right as other employees in the company to participate in any trade union or other personnel activities, which take place in the company or at company premises. However, participation in union activities and communications between the teleworkers and their trade union representatives should not lead to unreasonable costs for the Company, in comparison with those resulting from similar activities on the part of other personnel working at the premises of the employer.

For EuroCommerce   For UNI-Europa

Xavier R. Durieu,   Jan Furstenborg,

Secretary General       Head of Department "Commerce"

Ray Baker,         Angeles Rodriguez Bonilla,

Chairman to the Social Affairs Committee    Vice President

(1) The European social partners in commerce, Eurocommerce (employers) and Uni-Europa commerce (trade unions) cover all sizes of business and a wide variety of companies and workers.

(2) Directive 91/533/EEC of 14 October 1991 on an employers obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship OJ L 288 of 18/10/1991

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