Thailand Adopts Work from Home Bill: Implications for Employers

Posted by Written by Alexander Chipman Koty Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thailand has made an amendment to the Labor Protection Act to offer the same labor rights to remote workers. Employers can allow employees to work outside the business premises using information technology, such as computers and smartphones.

If an employer and employee agree, they should specify the terms of remote work in a written format.

Thailand has adopted a so-called Work from Home Bill, the country’s first legislation governing remote work relationships between employers and employees.

Officially, the Work from Home (WFH) Bill is an amendment to the Labor Protection Act B.E. 2541, one of Thailand’s central labor laws. The amendment offers a regulatory framework that clarifies the rights and obligations of both employers and employees engaged in remote work relationships.

Like in other countries worldwide, working from home became increasingly popular in Thailand since the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating policymakers, employers, and workers to adapt accordingly. Thailand’s new WFH Bill does not significantly alter the conditions of WFH labor arrangements but does provide a useful framework to add greater clarity to the rights of remote workers.

Labor protections for remote workers

The amendment to the Labor Protection Act B.E. 2541 adds a new Section 23/1 that sets out the labor rights of remote workers. It is set to come into force after it receives royal assent.

According to the new section, employers may agree to allow the employee to perform work outside of business premises remotely using information technology, such as computers and smartphones. Such an agreement may be made for the benefit of employers (e.g. saving rent on office space), work-life balance for employees (e.g. saving on commuting time), or out of necessity (e.g. pandemic restrictions).

If an employer and employee agree, they should specify the terms of remote work in a written format, whether in a physical document or digitally. This agreement may contain elements that are similar to typical labor agreements, but specific to the conditions of remote work.

Such an agreement may provide the following information, among other details:

  • Start and end dates;
  • Expectations for normal working days and hours, as well as rest periods;
  • Overtime and holiday work rules;
  • Rules for different types of leave;
  • The employee’s work responsibilities;
  • The employer’s control and supervision policies; and
  • Duties by the employer to provide work equipment and tools as well as payments for necessary work expenses.

Importantly, the amendment specifies that remote workers have the same rights as workers on business premises. As such, if an employer and an employee agree to a remote work agreement, the employee cannot be punished for working from home.

Another new addition is the introduction of Thailand’s first right-to-disconnect policy. According to the amendment, an employee has the right to disconnect – in other words, refuse or abstain from communications with their employer – after normal work hours or after completing the work they have been assigned. However, an employee may give their employer consent in writing to be contacted at such times.

Thailand’s need for work from home legislation

The WFH Bill reflects a proactive step by Thai policymakers to update labor rights legislation in response to on-the-ground changes. Since the pandemic, workers in countries around the world have shifted to full-time or hybrid remote work arrangements, and Thailand is no exception. Recognizing this, the WFH Bill offers both employers and employees clarity about how such situations should be managed.

At the height of the pandemic, employees often worked from home for extended periods to curb the spread of the virus. Besides COVID-19, the government periodically encourages businesses to allow employees to work from home to ease traffic congestion or reduce exposure to pollution. For example, in late January 2023, the Bangkok municipal government urged people to work from home amid high levels of air pollution.

For the most part, however, remote work has become popular because of the benefits it offers both employees and employers. In a remote work environment, employees enjoy benefits such as better work-life balance and reduced meal and transportation costs. Employers, meanwhile, may enjoy lower office space and utility costs and often benefit from stronger levels of employee productivity.

Companies that embrace remote work also have advantages in recruitment and retention. According to a 2022 survey by Michael Page Thailand, 82 percent of Thai employees want a hybrid working arrangement and 69 percent are willing to forego pay raises or promotions for better work-life balance.

The government itself has joined the remote work reality. As of October 2022, state employees have the option to work remotely, joining the ranks of many private sector employees working remotely.

What steps can employers take?

Employers can take immediate steps to comply with the WFH Bill, starting with establishing written agreements with employees on remote work arrangements. Doing so is especially pressing for companies that have abandoned physical office spaces and have become fully remote.

In addition to offering greater legal certainty, the WFH Bill is an impetus for employers in Thailand to create remote work policies. Remote work policies offer employers and employees a shared understanding of expectations surrounding remote work.

Such a policy may include requirements not stipulated by the WFH Bill, like cybersecurity policies. For instance, an employer may require employees to only use devices installed with anti-virus software or only use employer-provided devices when working remotely.

Other policies may address workplace safety, the use of company supplies, working on unprotected WiFi networks (e.g. at cafes), and geographic limits on where employees may work from. In addition, employers must determine how to effectively manage and oversee the work of remote employees, as well as how to encourage collaboration and innovation in remote work situations.

Overall, the WFH Bill does not mandate significant changes but offers a necessary framework that balances the needs and interests of both employers and employees. The bill may, however, herald a lasting shift in the country’s work culture, and inspire governments in other Southeast Asian countries to take similar steps.

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