Leo Varadkar: Workers should have 'legal right' to work from home

Leo Varadkar: Workers should have 'legal right' to work from home

People want 'blended working', said the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who was speaking as 700 new jobs were unveiled at DPD. Picture: Maxwells

Workers could be given a legal right to ask to work from home, the Tánaiste said.

Leo Varadkar said the future of work in a post-Covid Ireland will likely be "blended" with a mixture of working in offices and at home.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and many of his ministers have, this week, urged people to work from home where possible, though some have questioned whether that request should be made of employees, rather than employers.

Speaking at the announcement of a further 700 jobs being created by delivery service DPD, Mr Varadkar said workers could be given both a legal right to ask to work at home and the legal right to disconnect from home working.

"What we have seen is a huge move to remote working," he said.

"I know when we started developing our strategy on remote working we were thinking 'how can we encourage people to do this?' 

In some ways, now, the question is how are we going to encourage people to get back to the office, when that’s possible again.

"We've done a public consultation on it and what it seems people want, and this makes sense to me, is blended working. That would be some people would want to be in the office full time, some would want to be at home full time, but the vast majority want blended working. That could mean some days in the office, some days at home and some days from a remote hub.

"So we're working on the architecture around that. The kind of things we’re considering is giving people the legal right to request home working or remote working, it doesn’t mean they get it but the right to request it.

"And then what kind of incentives do we need to put in place to help people."

Current Level 3 guidance states that people should work from home where possible, but there is no legal enforcement available for this.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris also urged people to work from home to give Level 4 restrictions "a fighting chance".

"Working from home is something that we should be doing at level 3. When I come in from Greystones on the N11, there's still a lot of cars there. And I'm wondering how many of us need to be there," he said.

"We know that work from home is tough, but how many of us could get back to work from home, in an effort to stop having to go further?"

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly this week urged the Government to write to all businesses to remind them to allow staff to work from home, saying the move could "help to save Christmas".

If the Government decides to Level 5 of restrictions, only essential workers will be advised to attend workplaces, according to government guidance.

"Work from home unless it is for working in health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home."

A Deloitte study this week found that 40% of those working from home reported that they found it easier than working at the office or on site; 37% found it more difficult; while 23% reported no difference in difficulty.

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