The Italian regulative framework on remote working (Law No. 81 of 2017) outlines the features of a new flexible work arrangement, without specific constraints in terms of time and place of work. Despite the fact that it is based on a standard employment contract, the flexible and dynamic management of both "times" and "spaces" is left to an agreement between the employer and the employee. This modality seems to overcome the Fordist paradigm and the traditional core of standard worker protections.
Although remote working was originally born as a way to promote work-life balance and to enhance competitiveness, it currently raises concerns in terms of its organization, as well as the productivity of workers and their well-being, thus offering both new opportunities and new challenges. Given these considerations, the contribution focuses on the impact of remote working on the current employer’s role and powers, according to the standard employment relationship. The introduction of new technologies and new models of work organization gives the employer new tools to monitor and control the workers, exposing the employees to new forms of constant surveillance, including their performance and their compliance with the overall work organization at all times. In this context, how Article 4 of the Statute of Workers on monitoring work from a distance might be applied to remote work is an open question. Additionally, the effects of flexible working time arrangements in relation to the employers’ power, duties and responsibilities need to be explored: while wielding this power, they are asked to respect rest times (breaks) and to comply with the technical and organizational measures necessary to ensure the disconnection of the worker from the technological instruments of work (art. 19, co. 1, L. 81/2017). The purpose of the right to disconnect is not only to protect the worker’s health and ensure respect for their personal life, but also to avoid the risk of employer’s power abuse, commonly referred to as "time porosity". However, a proper way to guarantee effectively the worker’s right to disconnect is still to be found and this matter needs examining in further depth. Certainly, this right is linked to the occupational health and safety rights of the workers, including the protection of their physical and mental integrity. In a way, the right to disconnect has to be considered equivalent to the right to rest and leisure, with the novelty of a remote technological context. As a result, it is the employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees, also when working remotely. The implications of the "anytime, anywhere" nature of remote work can also result in a risk of different spheres of life overlapping, with boundaries between personal and work time becoming feeble. While the law of 2017 is considering remote work as a "conciliatory tool" for work- life balance, the increasing fragmentation of the remote activities not only in terms of space, but also in terms of time, has exacerbated the risks aforementioned. Given these circumstances, it is fundamental to discuss the role of collective bargaining and social partners in improving the quality of remote working.
Keywords: remote working, employers’ power, article 4 of the Statute of Workers, right to disconnection, time porosity.