New Rule Regulates Remote Work in Turkey

By Katie Nadworny June 16, 2021
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Istanbul

​When Jafar Najafly began his new job as a geographical information systems executive at Getir, a Turkish grocery delivery company, on May 1, his onboarding and all his work duties were remote. "The whole process was online; all of the interviews, case studies, reference checking, it was all online. I only had to go to the office when I accepted my job offer and I had to submit some papers," said Najafly, who is based in Istanbul. Getir provided him with a company laptop and a lunch card.

Due to the pandemic, Najafly's work will be remote for the indefinite future. However, when the pandemic ends, he believes he will be called back to the office.

"I know people who are working remotely, but I don't know anyone who will continue working remotely, because nobody knows," Najafly said. "Only maybe multinational corporations will do full-time remote working. But Turkish-based companies, I don't think so."

New Amendment to the Labor Law

The pandemic has made companies throughout Turkey re-evaluate their openness to remote work, culminating with an amendment to the labor law that spells out the procedures for taking on remote workers. The Regulation on Remote Work went into effect on March 10 and tells employers how to legally implement and onboard remote employees. 

"Because of the pandemic, the remote work tendency has increased. So the regulation has been drafted to actually [align] with the new requirements and the new practices born out of this remote work," said Altuğ Özgün, an attorney with Cetinkaya in Istanbul.

The employee and the employer must have a written contract before starting remote work, he said. Employers and employees must agree, beforehand and in writing, on the definition of the work, the hours, the duration of the remote work, salary-payment methodology, and the tools and equipment that will be provided. This allows for consistent procedures as more companies look toward long-term remote-work arrangements.

The arrangement must be mutually agreed upon, except in extreme circumstances. "The regulation doesn't say that there is a requirement by an employer to choose remote work, but it only says that under some conditions the employee may request it, and upon the agreement of the employer, the remote-work relationship can start," Özgün said. "During some force-majeure times, like a pandemic or an earthquake or something else, the employer can also decide to continue to work in a remote-based relationship. … Other than that, you cannot change the employment conditions only with the employer's decision. You need to have the consent of the employee as well." 

Turkish Work Culture

Though the amendment has been discussed since 2016, the pandemic and subsequent shift to remote work in 2020 accelerated the pressure to officially pass the new amendment. However, ingrained Turkish work culture is harder to shift, which makes it unclear how many companies will take advantage of the opportunity to have remote workers in the long term. 

"In Turkish culture, we are very based on verbal relationships rather than written relationships," Özgün said. "I'm hearing from my colleagues, especially from managers or directors, that they found it very hard to assess whether the employees are working efficiently or not. And the quality of the communication has decreased dramatically." Employees are also struggling to adjust to working away from their supervisors. "During this pandemic, my colleagues who are working remotely say that they cannot really understand whether their manager is upset or happy from an e-mail conversation."

Najafly also sees the reluctance to permanently shift to remote work. "When it's remote, [the employers] can't really know what everyone is up to and control [work] as much as they'd like to, even though it's very costly and expensive to operate in an office. … For some reason, Turkish employers prefer working from the office."

Some multinational companies have chosen to permanently shut their offices, citing the cost. Özgün expects that when the pandemic ends, multinational companies in Turkey will be more likely to continue with remote work, or at least a hybrid model, than domestic Turkish companies. "For Turkish companies, most probably will not switch to a hybrid model, if they haven't tried it so far," Özgün said. "And for multinationals, maybe they will switch to hybrid models because from the employees' side and from the managers' side, they have found this remote work a little bit challenging for communication."

Until the situation changes, Najafly enjoys working from home, finding that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. 

"For me, [not traveling and not commuting every day] has made a huge difference in my life. I can spend more time with whoever I want, first. That also means I don't get that tired, mentally and physically," Najafly said. "And that also means I can focus more on my efficiency and on my work, and it brings better results." 

Katie Nadworny is a freelance writer in Istanbul. 

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