THE TÁNAISTE has today published legislation which will give the right to workers to request remote working.
The legislation provides a legal framework around requesting, approving or refusing a request to work from home.
However, the legislation will not give people an automatic right to work from home, as was supported by the Labour Party.
Going forward, all companies must have a written statement which sets out the company's remote working policy, specifying the manner in which remote working requests are managed and the conditions which will apply to remote working generally within the organisation.
In the case where an employee's request is denied and an appeal has been heard, the employee will have to wait a period of 12 months to submit another request, provided they are in the same role.
If an employee moves to a new role within the company, they may submit a fresh request.
A time limit will also be in place for an employer to return a decision on a request, which can be set by the employer but canoe no longer than 12 weeks.
An employee will only be eligible to submit a request once they have worked for their employer for at least six months, but remote working can be offered from day one if desired.
Announcing the legislation, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that "so long as the business get done and services are provided, employers should facilitate it."
"I know throughout the pandemic, many employers have gone to great lengths to give their employees as much flexibility around where they work as possible. We want this to continue. The world of work has changed and I know many would like to retain some amount of remote working once COVID is behind us."
Criticism has been directed towards the Bill for the 13 reasons it provides that an employer can use to decline a work from home request:
- The nature of the work not allowing for the work to be done remotely;
- Cannot reorganise work among existing staff;
- Potential negative impact on quality;
- Potential negative impact on performance;
- Planned structural changes;
- Burden of additional costs, taking into account the financial and other costs entailed and the scale and financial resources of the employer’s business;
- Concerns re the protection of business confidentiality or intellectual property;
- Concerns re the suitability of the proposed workspace on health and safety grounds;
- Concerns re the suitability of the proposed workspace on data protection grounds;
- Concerns re the internet connectivity of the proposed remote working location;
- Inordinate distance between the proposed remote location and on-site location;
- If the proposed remote working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of an applicable collective agreement;
- Ongoing or recently concluded formal disciplinary processes.
Labour Party employment spokesperson Senator Marie Sherlock said the strategy is "shorted-sighted".
The party's proposal of the introduction of a right to work from home as opp
"The right to flexible work must not be confused with a blanket right to remote work on a full-time basis," she said.
"Unfortunately, the Government’s blind spot is that employers could be discommoded, when we know from years of research that a better work life balance is crucial to worker retention and worker productivity."
She said for women and workers with caring responsibilities, remote working has allowed them to continue they participation in the workforce.
"The precise factors behind this are unclear for now that but we know from talking to many women, that remote and flexible working actually enabled them to do more work, that for those with young children in particular, the lack of a commute ensured they could work and attend to caring responsibilities.
"It is unfortunate, and frankly unacceptable, that the Government are seeking to rely on the primacy of the employment contract to avoid introducing a right to flexible work. It is vital that employers take into account and accept the working arrangements that evolved over the past two years and that they do not simply rely on current contacts of employment," she said.