Croatian Labour Act already provides the possibility for employers to agree to remote (home) work with their employees, following certain requirements (specific content of employment agreements, in addition to standard provisions – such as working hours, required equipment, compensation of work-related costs, etc).
Employees working remotely are entitled to the same rights as regular employees in terms of salary, daily and weekly breaks, annual leave, etc. On the other hand, employees are required to perform all their duties with due care, to respect working hours and to take specific care of their health and safety.
Any type of work can be performed remotely, except for certain harmful jobs. These refer to types of work where the employer cannot protect the worker from harmful effects despite taking all the health and safety precautions (e.g. managing certain heavy machinery, firefighters, etc.). Such positions are prescribed by a special regulation and generally do not allow for full-time work, but only part-time e.g. working with radiation, some chemicals gases, etc.
In cases of remote work, employers should fulfil the same health and safety at work obligations as in case of work being performed at the employer’s premises. Therefore, before the commencement of working remotely, employers would need to verify the work conditions on the location where its employees will perform work (save for simple, administrative and office jobs with lower risk), establish possible risks and determine adequate measures of health and safety at work.
In addition to the above, employers are required to maintain working time records in the same manner as if the employees are located in their regular work premises.
Specifics regarding COVID-19 Epidemic
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Croatian Directory of Civil Defence has enacted a decision on 18 March by which, among other things, all employers are obliged to ensure work from home for their employees wherever it is possible.
In addition, the Croatian Ministry of Labour and Pension System (“Ministry”) published an official opinion that due to the further development of the COVID-19 outbreak (as a situation de facto treated as force majeure), employers would be allowed to unilaterally determine that employees should perform their duties at a place different than stipulated in their respective employment agreement (i.e. organize work from home). However, the Ministry emphasised that all the general obligations of employers (daily breaks and working hours, organization of work, HSE, etc.) and employees (diligent performance of work obligations) must be respected irrespective of the situation at hand.
Also, the Ministry stated that in the case of low-risk jobs (such as office and administrative work) remote work may be in force as long as extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 epidemic are in force.
As home offices are not facilities intended for working, the Ministry acknowledges that employers may not be expected to fulfil all safety requirements pertaining to the specific job position and that statutory health and safety requirements should be fulfilled to the full possible and permissible extent, especially making sure that employees’ health and safety are not put at risk.