MAURITIUS: IMPLICATIONS OF WORK FROM HOME REGULATIONS

By Rajiv Gujadhur,Sahirun Subadar Monday, May 17, 2021
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In the wake of the first COVID-19 lockdown in Mauritius, from March to June 2020, the authorities wasted little time in adopting measures to ensure that employers and workers alike could adapt smoothly to the ‘new normal’. The legislative framework governing employment was supplemented by the coming into force of the Workers’ Rights (Working from Home) Regulations 2020 (Regulations), on 1 September 2020.

The continuing effects of the pandemic leading to the second lockdown in 2021 have highlighted the fact that a blended working model, of both working from home and in-office, will henceforth form an integral part of the local working arrangements.

As such, the wide-ranging implications of the Regulations are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. Employers would therefore be well advised to consider the following:

  • Updated terms of employment for both workers and non-workers
    There is a need to amend existing terms of employment to bring them in line with the Regulations, which make no distinction between a worker and a non-worker and apply to all employees irrespective of their salaries. The impacts, as they relate to non-workers in particular, need to be carefully considered.
  • Re-allocation of work-related expenses and disturbance allowances
    The need arises for employers to reassess compensation packages and bring them in line with the new working arrangements. These include catering for hours of work, disturbance allowances, work-from-home refunds for applicable work-related expenses as well as items such as utilities in respect of workers and, more so, for non-workers.
  • Obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2005 (OSHA) and injury at work 
    As a result of homeworkers being covered by the provisions of the OSHA under the Regulations, the obligations of employers now extend well beyond the confines of office premises. This impacts both the existing contractual arrangements and the suitability of current insurance covers. Operating policies may have to be revisited.
  • Access to place of work
    Given that the place of work may now include the residence of employees, the need arises for employers to seek authorisation to access the same, subject to prior notice and at reasonable times of the day.

    Employees have an inherent right to refuse their employers access to their residential premises. In view of this, employers would, at the very outset, need to consider the implications of such refusal in the event of injury at work or the inability of an employee to perform his/her duties in accordance with the employment agreement.

  • Data protection and cyber security
    Whilst providing appropriate tools and equipment to enable employees to fulfil their contractual obligations, employers are required to comply with their own ongoing obligations of confidentiality and protection of personal data. This means existing policies may need to be extended to cater for working from home scenarios.

    The challenges facing employers in such circumstances will be to ensure an equivalent level of security as is currently applicable at their business premises. Likewise, the homeworker will be required to abide by the employer’s policies concerning confidentiality, data protection and cyber security, as well as applicable legislation.

Conclusion

The issues highlighted in this paper raise concerns that require action by employers, all taking into account their own sectors of activity with their particularities. This would, in certain circumstances, call for appropriate advice to be obtained from a risk management perspective.

The implications for failing to do so may have far-reaching legal, financial and/or reputational consequences, bearing in mind aspects such as injury at work, data protection, cyber security risks and the financial impact on employers and employees alike.