As major business groups in Australia push for workers to return to the office, the Netherlands is taking steps to make working from home a legal right.
The Dutch parliament’s lower house has passed legislation that would make working from home a legal right, shifting the onus onto employers to only reject work from home requests with a valid reason. If given approval by the Senate, the Netherlands will become one of the first countries in the world to grant remote working flexibility in its law.
The work from home bill is an amendment to the country’s Flexible Working Act 2015, which gave workers the opportunity to request changes in the number of hours they worked, their work schedule and place of work.
The new legislation will mean employers have to consider work from home requests from employees and give a valid reason if denying the request.
Flexible work culture was already normalised to an extent in the Netherlands before the pandemic, especially in comparison to nations like Australia. According to Eurostat, 14 per cent of workers in the Netherlands worked from home two years before the pandemic.
The legislation was introduced by Steven van Weyenberg and Senna Maatoug, who said the idea has received widespread support.
The move from the Netherlands comes as other countries grapple with how to convince employees to return to the office, after it was normalised when COVID-19 hit.
Earlier this month, Elon Musk took a harsh approach, issuing an ultimatum to staff at Tesla that they must return to the office 40 hours per week, or leave their jobs.
In Australia, major business groups have rejected calls from government health officers for employers to encourage employees to work from home due to rising COVID-19 and influenza case numbers this winter.
In Victoria, the government has just issued a statement requesting that employers consider working from home arrangements for employees, after the state has experienced a 53 per cent increase in hospital admissions over the past two weeks.