As the world adapts to a new way of working in a post-pandemic era, with many companies sticking to a remote or hybrid scheme, it’s not all clear sailing as firms battle with a myriad of challenges in the transition.
Shifting to remote work has helped companies save huge amounts of money on office space, as well as supporting decarbonisation plans as workers no longer have to commute to the office. For employees, it provides them with a more flexible way of working with greater comfort. However, not all the rules for the new way of working are clear, with each company approaching the new model with their own policies.
Last week, a court ruled that a company based in Florida, Chetu, would have to pay a remote worker $73,000 after firing him for refusing to keep his webcam on all day. The employee worked remotely in the Netherlands for the American software firm. He was told in August that he was required to keep his webcam on all day for a virtual training program. He responded to the request by saying he didn’t “feel comfortable being monitored for 9 hours a day by a camera,” and “This is an invasion of my privacy and makes me feel really uncomfortable”. He was fired three days later for insubordination.
Chetu employees already have their computer activity monitored and, in this case, the employee was sharing his screen.
A Dutch court stated, “The employer has not made it clear enough about the reasons for the dismissal,” adding “Moreover, there has been no evidence of a refusal to work, nor has there been any reasonable instruction.” The court told the company that making an employee leave their camera on is against the employee’s right to respect for private life, using Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to support its ruling.
However, TechCrunch highlighted the difference in labour laws in the U.S., suggesting that a U.S. court would likely have ruled in favour of the company. This just goes to show how complex a transition to a new model of working can be, particularly as it opens opportunities for international workers and greater globalisation. It will likely take several years to develop labour laws and suitable company policies for remote and hybrid working.