Tasks and Responsibilities of an Employer in a Digital Age: How to Comply with the Applicable Requirements for Work Conditions

Author:Gaabriel Tavits
Gaabriel Tavits
Professor of Social Law
University of Tartu
Tasks and Responsibilities of
an Employer in a Digital Age:
How to Comply with the Applicable Requirements
for Work Conditions
1. Introduction
The general meaning of labour law is intimately tied to the understanding that an employee is a party in a
weaker position in the employment relationship and that the employer has to follow all possible rules that
have been established by labour law so as to protect the employee.
There are several classes of rule that an employer has to honour:
1) speci c rules on occupational health and safety
2) rules connected with the individual employment contract at issue (addressing working and rest
time, annual holiday, night work (along with overtime work etc.), and protection for speci c
categories of employees – (minors, pregnant workers, etc.)
Using new forms of employment and new technologies renders it impossible for the employer to follow
both sets of rules without problematic issues arising. For instances, in cases of ‘online jobs’ (e.g., telework or
platform-based employment), it is not possible for the employer to measure the working time unilaterally.
Furthermore, the employer is interested more in the result. In cases involving shift work handled online, it
is not possible to measure how many hours of work will be done in a shift or know in advance how the work
is going to be done.
It is obvious that the principles of labour law developed in the 19th century do not function adequately
for today’s environment. Although the protection of the employee must remain at the core of labour law,
it is time to rethink the position of the employee in labour relations. One important requirement in this
connection is that the employee takes more responsibility in labour relations. This extends to determina-
tion of the appropriate limitations on working and rest time and to observing the occupational health and
safety rules. The protection of the employee is not only the task of the employer; this responsibility has to
be shifted more toward the employee.
Another important question emerges also, one connected with how to assess the quality of the work
performed by the employee. Until recently, it was possible to verify the quality of work done by employees
rather directly in the workplace, but now, in the era of digitalisation, the term ‘workplace’ does not denote
anything de nite and concrete. Hence, a vital question for the employer inevitably rears its head: how can
such control be performed most e ciently?
This article’s discussion of the attendant issues is divided into four chapters. The rst chapter (2) exam-
ines the issue of the employment relationship and its legal regulation. The main problem to be solved is

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