6 June 2024

Thailand has become the latest country to enshrine rights for digital nomads, offering protection to a growing number of people who are keen to work from home but unsure about the law and guidelines.

The move comes as more employees find the line between their personal life and work is becoming blurred, with bosses expecting them to be available at all hours.

Hence, Thailand has amended its labor law not just for the “benefits of employers’ operations” but also for the “enhancement of employees’ quality of life and work”.

Under the newly amended law, employees have the right to ignore any communication from employers beyond work hours without the fear of a backlash.

The new version of Thailand’s Labor Protection Act will go into effect on April 18.

What does the new law say?

Article 23/1 of the Labor Protection Act B.E. 2566 (2023), which has been published in the Royal Gazette, also states that employers may agree to have employees work from home or remotely if their jobs can be done outside the office. This agreement must be prepared in writing by employers.

The agreement, which can be in the form of an e-document, should specify the validity of the pact, working hours, overtime hours, days off, type of leave employees are entitled to, the scope of work, scope of supervision, procurement of work-related equipment and related expenses.

According to the law, employees can refuse any communication with their bosses outside working hours unless agreed otherwise in advance.

The law also clearly states that employees working from home or any other place shall have the same rights as those based in the office.

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New work-from-home ethos

The latest change to the labor law reflects the growth of Thailand’s work-from-home culture. Late last year, the government launched clear guidelines for civil servants working outside the office.

Issued by the Office of the Prime Minister and effective from October 7, 2022, the regulation authorizes supervisors in state agencies to assign their subordinates to work from home where appropriate. It also encourages flexibility and provision of co-working spaces, as long as public services, work efficiency and missions of government agencies are not compromised.

“We need to keep pace with the changing context. The government sector needs to be agile, flexible and adaptable,” deputy government spokesperson Traisuree Taisaranakul said about the work-from-home culture.

The law in other countries

While technology has long enabled people to work remotely, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that established work-from-home as a norm. Not only did employers realize that work can actually be done outside the office and that employees working remotely are no less diligent, but employees also familiarized themselves with how to fulfil their duties and deliver work from home.

As of December 2022, workers in the United States spent almost 30% of their workdays at home. The US Telework Enhancement Act has been in effect since 2010.

Amid the pandemic, several countries embraced the work-from-home concept and introduced laws to support people switching to this work mode.

Taiwan, for instance, passed a new work-from-home regulation in 2021, requiring employers to provide remote workers with the necessary tools and equipment to perform the job, which should include the use of ergonomically sound work equipment and up-to-date software. Employers are also required to pay for any maintenance of such tools and equipment, as well as provide education and training on mental and physical health to ensure the well-being of their remote employees.

Also in 2021, Spain issued a new law stating that all remote work arrangements should be made in written form and on a voluntary basis. It also requires employers to cover expenses related to remote work as well as carry out a risk assessment of remote employees’ workspaces.

In 2022, Denmark amended its work-from-home law. Under the revised version, remote workers’ well-being is better protected with employers required to ensure that employees have the necessary workstation, furniture and equipment that will help them perform their duties. This includes a table, an adjustable screen, a chair and suitable lighting.

Last December, Australia’s “Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act” began allowing employees to challenge their employer’s refusal or failure to respond to a flexible work arrangement request.

By Thai PBS World

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