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The home office scheme – the employer must know this

The last decades, there has been a societal and technological development that has contributed to creating great flexibility in everyday working life. It has become increasingly common to use a home office, and many have a working day where they combine work from their private home with their permanent workplace. With the increased use of home offices, it is important that employers familiarize themselves with the rules that apply to home working.

Rules for working in a home office

The Working Environment Act applies similarly to work in the employee’s home. In addition to the rules of the Working Environment Act, supplementary rules for home offices have been adopted in the Regulations on work carried out in the employee’s home, regulation 5 July 2002 no. 715 (the “home office regulations”).

The regulations do not provide an exhaustive regulation of all matters relating to the home office arrangement, but are intended to supplement the rules that otherwise follow from the Working Environment Act

When do the home office regulations apply?

The rules in the home office regulations apply to work that is carried out in the employee’s own private home. This means that work from the cabin, when traveling or elsewhere is not covered.

Furthermore, it is assumed that home work is a fixed arrangement of a certain extent, for example that the employee works from home at least one day a week. Sporadic or short periods of home work will not be covered by the regulations, but by the rules of the Working Environment Act in the same way as other remote work. It is not possible to give a clear answer to when home work is to be characterized as a fixed arrangement, but it must be assessed by the employer in the specific case.

What special rules apply to home offices?

In addition to the general rules of the Working Environment Act, the Home Office Regulations set out a number of rules that the employer is required to comply with when an employee has a home office:

Written agreement on homework

Because apart from the usual written employment contract, the employer must enter into a written agreement on home working with each individual employee who has a home office. The agreement shall at least regulate the following points:

  • The scope of homework
  • Working hours for homework
  • Any provisions on when the employee must be available to the employer
  • If the agreement is temporary; expected duration
  • Any provisions on the right to amend or terminate the agreement on home work, deadlines for such termination, etc.
  • Any provisions on a trial period for the home work scheme.
  • Ownership, operation and maintenance of equipment
  • Any provisions on case management, confidentiality and storage of document

It is worth noting that the requirement for a written agreement does not apply when the homework is due to an order or recommendation from the authorities, such as during the pandemic. In such situations, it is sufficient for the employer to discuss the conditions resulting from the points above with the employees’ union representative, and then provide written information to the employees about the conditions.

Requirements for a fully responsible working environment in the home office

Equally, the employer has a duty to ensure the employee a fully safe working environment for work carried out from home as in the permanent workplace. The employer must, as far as is practically possible, ensure that the workplace, the work equipment and the indoor environment do not cause adverse physical stress for the employee. In addition, the employer must ensure that the psychosocial working environment is safeguarded.

The regulation also specifies duties for the company’s safety representative and working environment committee (AMU). The bodies must, as far as is practically possible, ensure that employees’ interests are safeguarded in matters relating to the working environment. In addition, they must ensure that working environment conditions for employees in their own homes are part of the company’s internal control system.

As the work is carried out in the employee’s own home, and neither the employer, the safety representative nor the AMU have access to the home without a special agreement, the employee has a duty to contribute to the implementation of the measures implemented to create a safe working environment.

The Working Environment Act’s rules on notification (chapter 2) and means of action in working environment work (chapter 3, with the exception of § 3-1) and rules on requirements for the working environment (chapter 4) do not apply to home offices.

Rules on working hours apply similarly to home work

Previously, the home office regulations contained a special regulation of working hours at home offices. After the pandemic, however, home offices were to a greater extent considered part of a normal working situation, and the government decided as a result to end the special rules with effect from 1 July 2022. The Working Environment Act’s rules on working hours thus apply correspondingly to home work.

Recommendations to the employer

The Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority has the right to supervise, and can give orders and make the individual decisions that are necessary for the implementation of the rules provided in the home office regulations. On the other hand, the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority does not have the right to carry out inspections in the employee’s home unless a separate agreement has been entered into to this effect.

In order to avoid sanctions from the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority, it is important that the employer become familiar with the rules for home working, and ensures that the company’s practice of home office is in line with the Working Environment Act and the Home Office Regulations.

Clear routines should be drawn up for the practice of home offices, which should be made available to all employees in the business. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that written agreements are entered into with all employees who use the home office scheme.

In addition to the formal aspects of home offices, the employer must ensure a good dialogue with the individual employee and ensure that they receive sufficient follow-up on an equal basis with the other employees. Some employees are in the home office for large parts of their working hours. For these, it may be appropriate to hold regular meetings to maintain a good relationship and ensure adequate follow-up. Furthermore, it is normally important to agree that the employer has access to changes, including the option to remove home office access if necessary.

Solid references

We assist employers across industries and work for several of Norway’s largest employers. We also have a significant portfolio of small and medium-sized employers, public enterprises and foreign clients, and work closely with lawyers in other countries on multinational assignments and projects. Unlike many of our competitors, we also assist employees, which makes us better able to analyze and choose the right solution in all conflicts between employee and employer.