The Twitter case taking into account the future of remote work. Can labour policies put a limit?

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The Politicus
Nov 19, 2022 07:37 PM 0 Answers
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One of the first actions taken by Elon Musk after taking over Twitter was the ban on remote work. This is nothing new. Marissa Meier did the same shortly after becoming the new CEO of Yahoo. The reason is quite simple. Many US workers have to endure long commutes. Housing close to most workplaces is often scarce and expensive. The sudden switch will push some to leave their jobs and usually the first ones to give up are older workers with a family. This is a common trick to get rid of the less flexible workers without appearing to discriminate anyone. Actually these tricks are often used also in Europe, struggling companies may move their offices from one city to another, employees of consulting companies or temporary agencies may be told: "from the next Monday you'll work onsite for the new client 100 Kilometres from here".

But still there is a limit to this kind of actions. The employment contracts have a working location and the companies cannot move working location in a far region without offering a relocation package or at least some time to organise the transfer. In the Twitter case Musk had to go even further to the point that he drew the attention of the unions.

What is going to happen if remote work keeps expanding? Many workers in recent times have been offered a contract with a working location more than 100 Km from home with the promise of remote work. Those workers are a lot more vulnerable if their employers decide to take similar actions. The existing limitation can be easily circumvented, the employer could tell the employee that they have to work hundreds of kilometres from home with little notice. This is because the labour legislation in many countries does not take into account that modern arrangements could be based on a virtual working location completely disconnected from the physical location where the worker lives. Can this be fixed? Is there the will and the way to restore the current situation?

@SJuan76 claimed in a comment that the problem does not exist, because a verbal promise of a work from home arrangement is legally binding, but in the Twitter case a promise repeated also on the media was easily broken. Furthermore the trick of suddenly terminating work from home is likely to be used more often in Europe where firing employees is a lot more difficult and in Europe matters what is written in the contract.

BTW I understand that there might be different answers depending on the area, if answers can be tagged with the applicable countries like it happens in the law forum, it would be welcome.

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  • November 19, 2022