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Do Employees Have A Right To Work Remotely? – Employee Rights/ Labour Relations



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A court in Israel has ruled that a company was entitled to turn
down an employee’s request to work remotely.

In a ruling recently issued by the Tel Aviv District Labour
Court in the case of the Middle East Pipeline Company, the
district court discussed a claim lodged by an employee, who worked
as a payroll accountant, that her employer discriminated against
her in comparison with an equivalent employee, by not allowing her
to work from home. This, according to her, was contrary to the
provisions of the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law of 1988.

The district court stated in its ruling that, as a general rule,
the decision whether to allow an employee, following his or her
request, to work from home, is part of the employer’s
prerogative, and is at the core of the employer’s discretion.
It does not constitute a right and does not form part of the
employee’s working conditions.

This is because employees must devote all their time and energy
during working hours to the employer’s business, which is
usually done on the employer’s premises. Because of this, the
district court ruled that if the employer does not see working from
home as beneficial or indeed if it considers it may be a
disadvantage for the business, it cannot be required to allow an
employee to work from home.

The district court ruled that there was no flaw in the
company’s judgement on the facts of this case when it did not
approve the employee’s request to work from home, for, amongst
others, the following reasons:

  • The relatively short period of time for which the employee had
    been employed by the company (also resulting in less experience at
    her position).

  • A low level of satisfaction with the employee’s
    performance.

  • The fact that there was only one employee, with more experience
    and seniority, in the department who was allowed to work from home
    (and she agreed to return early to work from parental leave
    following a request from the employer and conditional upon working
    from home for a certain period).

  • The fact that the employee based her request only on the
    closure of the education system (it was at the start the COVID19
    crisis).

  • The employer’s decision was examined based on the time when
    it was taken. The request was issued when working from home
    practices were not as developed as they are today (post COVID-19
    challenges).

The district court also ruled that the distinction made by the
company between the claimant and the other employee in the
equivalent position to her was justified in light of a key
difference between them: the employer’s level of satisfaction
with their performance.

In conclusion, according to this ruling, working from home is
not an accrued right for employees and, in general, it is not part
of the working conditions that an employer is obliged to give
employees. There is no provision in the law giving rise to a right
to working from home arrangements (of course, unless there is any
other binding source in the workplace providing such a right, such
as any personal or collective agreement). Instead, the employer
must consider each request regarding remote work in good faith and
give weight, among other things, to the employee’s
circumstances and the nature of the work and the role s/he
performs.

This is the first significant court ruling by the Israeli courts
regarding the right to work remotely and although the ruling is
issued by the district court and therefore does not constitute a
precedent, it provides an important insight on the ‘hot
topic’ of remote working. We anticipate that this issue will
continue to occupy the courts, as well as employers, in the coming
years.

To read the full verdict (in Hebrew) click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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