Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the new strategy will cover digital hubs, expenses, benefits, the right to disconnect and more.
At today’s (18 November) Dáil session, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, TD, said he will publish a new remote working strategy by the end of 2020.
In response to a bill presented by the Labour Party on working from home during Covid-19, Varadkar said the strategy would cover creating a network of digital hubs across the country for remote workers, tax and expenses arrangements, benefits, the right to request to work remotely and the right to disconnect.
The bill was first presented to the Dáil on 12 November by Labour Party members Alan Kelly and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. It proposes giving employees who are working remotely the “right to switch off” from work-related communications outside of their allotted working hours.
Kelly, the Labour Party leader, said that current Irish laws around working from home are “either outdated, unworkable or non-existent”. He highlighted that at the beginning of 2020, around 200,000 employees in Ireland were working from home regularly.
That figure has more than tripled to 700,000 since the impacts of Covid-19 set in, according to Kelly. This is going to have long-term effects, he said, on “everything from transporting and commuting to regional development, industrial policy and everything else”.
“People’s priorities have changed,” Kelly continued. “Covid has been a disrupter.” He spoke about a Mental Health First Aid Ireland survey carried out earlier this year.
In it, almost one-third of respondents said they weren’t happy with their current work-life balance. Kelly said: “The report concludes that as boundaries are blurred between work and life, workers have found it hard to switch off.
“Some 42pc of those surveyed agreed that they found it difficult to maintain the boundaries between home and work life and almost half of all respondents, 49.3pc to be exact, worked over their contracted hours.”
The Government has also conducted its own public consultation on remote working. The results haven’t been announced yet, but will be used to shape public policy on the matter.
Working From Home Bill 2020
The Working From Home Bill 2020 proposes two new protections for employees: the right to switch off and access to appropriate workstations to carry out their job from home. It would require employers to communicate their policies on out-of-hours communication.
Many people are working from home in “cramped and unsuitable spaces”, according to Kelly, which he believes should be rectified by Government funding. Moreover, he added that employers are “effectively required to inspect the homes of their employees to ensure that they are suitable for working from home”. He called this “completely and utterly ludicrous” and “unenforceable and simply wrong”.
“While the nature of work may be changing at a rapid pace, the need to protect the rights of workers will never change,” he said.