Business groups have welcomed proposed remote working legislation announced by the Government today.
The legislation, which would give workers the right to request remote working from their employer, also includes plans to introduce a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect from work and a commitment to investing in remote working hubs.
Ibec, the country’s largest business representative body, welcomed the publication of the National Remote Work Strategy, stating it is “a timely recognition of the accelerating changes in our workplaces”.
Maeve McElwee, director of employer relations at Ibec, said there had been an increasing trend towards more flexible and remote working in recent years, vastly accelerated by the onset of the pandemic.
“We are pleased to see Government commitments to invest in necessary infrastructure such as remote working hubs, alignment with childcare facilities, and the National Broadband Plan, as well as reviewing tax arrangements to incentivise remote working.”
“The proposals to introduce legislation will require careful development to meet a balance for businesses and employees in order to ensure competitiveness, equality and flexibility considerations are addressed,” she said.
Maura Quinn, chief executive of the Institute of Directors (IoD), said recent research conducted by the group found the primary concern of business leaders with regard to remote working is the isolation of staff and a lack of cohesion between teams.
Commenting on the proposed legislation, she said “striking a balance” would be key to satisfying the requirements and practicalities of both employers and employees, adding: “That will be no easy task.”
Chambers Ireland also welcomed the proposed legislation, calling it an “ambitious vision for the future of work in Ireland.”
“Of particular importance to our members is the commitment within the report to examine the acceleration of the National Broadband Plan and develop a National Hubs Network,” the group’s chief executive Ian Talbot said.
Chambers Ireland director of policy and communications Emma Kerins noted that remote working, as an element of wider flexible working, presents significant opportunities in creating a more equal workforce by boosting labour participation rate and making the place of work more inclusive.
“However, there is growing evidence, nationally and internationally, that the negative impacts of pandemic on the workforce have been felt more strongly on women than on men, with women carrying more of the load when it comes to childcare, homes duties and home-schooling.”
“Through feedback from members, there are concerns that the experience of remote working during the pandemic may harm career progression for women and potentially widen the gender pay gap.”
Ms Kerins said such concerns had been acknowledged within the report, but she would urge the Government to closely monitor the impact of remote working on gender equality in the workplace as the strategy evolves.