The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the way journalists organize their work and the journalism industry as a whole. Journalists worldwide were forced to turn their homes into newsrooms as governments closed physical working spaces to prevent the spread of the virus. This abrupt and non-regulated transition from newsrooms to teleworking for a still undetermined time poses opportunities but also several challenges that need to be addressed urgently.

Telework cannot be unregulated - rules are needed to ensure it is safe and fair.

To mark the International Day for Decent Work on October 7, the IFJ is publishing guidelines for its affiliates to ensure journalists' labour rights are protected when working from home and to push national governments to develop a guarantee-based teleworking framework.

Teleworking has an enormous impact on media workers’ rights, but it also puts at risk their ability to maintain quality coverage as it removes the physical centre for journalists' collaboration during news production.

While reporting from the field and newsroom interactions remain basic conditions for quality journalism, telework can offer benefits for media workers including the saving of unpaid time spent on transport and the reduction of levels of stress, anxiety and ecological footprint. It also provides flexibility to journalists' work and can be beneficial to work-life balance if properly regulated and combined with other measures.

How can unions guarantee media workers’ rights when reporting from home?

Build a legal framework

Develop national legal frameworks that clearly define what is teleworking and what is not, according to the International Labour Organization standards.

Strengthen collective agreements

Solid collective agreements remain the strongest tool for unions and media workers to ensure that teleworking legislation is applied equally to all staff and freelances.

Provide decent equipment

Several media companies told journalists to “go home” and simply carry on. Training on new working and communication apps, having the right equipment and ensuring decent access to the internet is vital for a successful and inclusive transition to teleworking.

Guarantee the right to disconnect

Recent academic studies have revealed that, since telework was established, working days and hours have been increased, blurring the boundaries between private and professional life. Establishing a clear division between working hours and private life is essential for healthy and non-intrusive remote working.

Maintain equal rights

Employers can’t discriminate between media workers that telework and those who don’t. Salaries, working hours, access to promotion and job stability must be equal regardless of the place you work. 

Sanction those who infringe the rules

Control and fines for those employers that don’t comply with the law.

Inquire about data security at home

Data protectionmust  be carefully considered. Working from home means access to a newsroom’s confidential files is likely to be less protected. Media must ensure cybersecurity remains key even when journalists work remotely.

Ensure media workers’ breaks

The right to have short breaks within working hours must be guaranteed when working from home

Ensure safety at home

Employers must assess the health and safety conditions under which journalists operate while teleworking, including cyber-security

Provide a roadmap to restore physical newsrooms

Physical newsrooms are crucial for news production and media employers must develop a plan to reopen them when the health situation allows it.