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European Parliament moves to majority teleworking in response to COVID-19

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The European Parliament is instructing managers to prepare for all but a minority of staff to work remotely for 70% of the week as of next Monday — dialling up its response to Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Full-time remote working may follow, it has also said.

In an email sent today European Parliament staff have been instructed that teleworking will be introduced on March 16 — for “all colleagues whose physical presences in Parliament is not absolutely indispensable”.

“At this stage it will be 70% teleworking. That means presence in the office will be limited to 1½ days a week,” the email continues, adding: “Later on teleworking could be increased to 100% of working time dependent on the further developments.”

Earlier this week the parliament instructed “vulnerable” staff with pre-existing health conditions to telework to shrink their risk of exposure to the virus. The move followed the European Commission confirming its first cases of the disease.

European Parliament tells vulnerable staff to telework to shrink COVID-19 risk

The European Parliament is based in three locations in the EU, with the administrative offices in Luxembourg and plenary sessions of the parliament taking place in Brussels, Belgium, and Strasbourg in France.

We understand the teleworking shift applies across all locations.

The World Health Organization’s most recent Covid-19 situation report, for 10am CET March 10, lists a total of 1,402 confirmed cases in France; 239 in Belgium; and four in Luxembourg.

In recent days members of parliaments in several EU countries have also been reported to have contracted the virus — including politicians in Italy, Spain and the UK.

Another EU institution, the European Commission — which is primarily based in Brussels — is also allowing some staff to work remotely in response to the threat posed by the coronavirus, including staff with a pre-existing health condition and those who have recently traveled to regions it defines as high risk. It has also urged staff to take precautions, such as regular hand washing and social distancing.

It seems likely the Commission will follow the parliament’s lead and expand remote working further as confirmed cases of Covid-19 continue to increase. Local press in Belgium has reported 47 new cases today, including seven in Brussels.

The Belgian Federal Public Health service is also recommending businesses offer employees the option to work from home, postpone meetings and/or make use of video conferencing and avoid gathering large numbers of people in one place.

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