Planned legislation will give Irish employers and employees ‘legal clarity’ around remote working, according to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
The Irish Government has published new legislation that will give workers the right to request remote working.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar announced the details today (25 January) as part of plans to make better terms and conditions for workers a legacy of the pandemic.
The Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 will provide a legal framework for Irish workers to request remote work and have their request approved or refused by employers.
Announcing the bill, Varadkar acknowledged that remote working was been imposed on a lot of people due to public health restrictions.
“Now that they have been lifted, I want it to be a choice,” he added. “I want workers to be able to work from home or remotely or hybrid if they want to. 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.”
‘I want workers to be able to work from home or remotely or hybrid if they want to’
– LEO VARADKAR, TD
According to the new rules, all workplaces will need to have a written statement setting out the company’s remote working policy. The policy must specify the manner in which remote working requests are managed, as well as the conditions that will apply to remote working generally within the organisation.
An employee will be eligible to submit a request to work remotely once they have worked for their employer for a period of six months. However, an employer is free to offer remote work from day one if they wish to do so.
The new law provides for a time limit for an employer to return a decision in relation to a request from an employee. The employer can set out their own specific time limit, but it must not be more than 12 weeks.
Under the legislation, employers will be allowed to decline requests for remote working under certain conditions. However, they must state reasonable business grounds when declining a request.
These grounds include the nature of the work not lending itself to remote working, a potential negative impact on quality of the work, planned structural changes, the burden of additional costs, health and safety concerns, concerns regarding internet connectivity at the remote worker’s site, and an unfeasible distance between workers’ remote location and the on-site location.
If an employer fails to respond to a request or to provide any reasonable grounds for refusal of a request for remote working, employees will have the right of appeal to the Workplace Relations Commission. The commission will also protect employees if they face discrimination for choosing to work remotely.
If an employer has completed an assessment process and any appeal has been heard, the employee will have to wait a year 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.
Varadkar said the legislation is being introduced to provide “legal clarity” for employers and employees alike around remote working. The framework was developed in consultation with the public, as well as employee and employer interest groups.
“We have a real opportunity now to change the norm and learn what we can from the pandemic. This new right is in addition to the right to disconnect, our investment in remote working hubs across the country and our changes to the treatment of home working costs through Budget 2022,” Varadkar added.
The right to request remote working was welcomed by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, TD, who encouraged employers and workers to make use of the Connected Hubs network. Almost 200 remote working hubs have been set up in locations around the country as part of the Government’s strategy to attract people to rural Ireland.
“I would encourage employers to look at utilising these hubs as a means to allow their staff to continue to work remotely into the future,” Humphreys said, adding that the facilities could enable employers to offer a “blended working” opportunity to staff now that public health restrictions have eased.
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